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ETA admits killing ex-minister

ETA admits killing ex-minister

MADRID, Spain -- The Basque separatist group ETA has claimed responsibility for the killing of former Spanish health minister Ernest Lluch.

He died last November after being shot twice in the head by gunmen who ambushed him in a basement car park in Barcelona.

ETA on Monday admitted responsibility for 21 of 23 killings blamed on the group in 2000, its bloodiest year since 1992, and included the assassination of Lluch.

The group alleged that Lluch, 63, who served as health minister from 1982 to 1986 under former Socialist Prime Minister Felipe Gonzalez, backed a divided Basque country dominated by Spain.

His assassination drew nearly one million people onto the streets of the city in a protest led by Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar.

Spanish police last week arrested two suspected ETA members believed to have carried out Lluch's killing and other attacks in and around Barcelona in recent months. They were moved to Madrid on Monday for trial.

Earlier on Monday, a small explosive device blew up at a trade union building in the Basque city of Bilbao, causing minor damage but no injuries, regional police said.

ETA -- which called off a 14-month cease-fire in December 1999 -- often waits months before claiming responsibility for its attacks.

An ETA internal publication said Lluch "supported a so-called dialogue" which sought "a divided Basque country dominated by Spain."

The document, written in the Basque language, also said ETA was behind failed attempts to assassinate two journalists and a lawyer last autumn.

Lluch was a staunch proponent of talks to find a solution to the Basque bloodshed which has claimed about 800 lives over 33 years.

Many marchers in the demonstration that followed his death called on Spain's government to drop its hard-line stance on the Basque issue and reopen talks with mainstream Basque nationalists who govern the region.

Reuters contributed to this report.

Police seize key ETA suspects
January 11, 2001
'One million' Spaniards protest minister's murder
November 23, 2000
ETA blamed for ex-minister's assassination
November 22, 2000
ETA: One of Europe's most feared separatist groups
August 8, 2000

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