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Killing prompts Spanish rallies

Funeral
Mourners were told 'terror is the enemy of humanity'  

ZARAGOZA, Spain -- Thousands of people have protested across Spain at the latest killing blamed on Basque separatists.

More than 300,000 people gathered on Monday to protest the killing of Manuel Gimenez Abad, 52, president of the local chapter of the ruling centre-right Popular Party.

Abad was shot on Sunday as he walked with his son to a soccer match.

While no one has claimed responsibility for the killing, officials immediately blamed it on Basque separatist group ETA.

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Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar and other Spanish politicians led the procession through Zaragoza, capital of the northeast Aragon region.

They were joined by Abad's widow Ana Larraz and their two teenage children.

Demonstrators marched holding a banner that read, "For freedom, against terrorism."

An official statement read at the rally, accused ETA of seeking independence through "suffering, injustice, fear and barbarity."

Similar rallies were held in Madrid and other Spanish cities.

Prior to the shooting ETA was thought to be observing an undeclared truce in the run-up to May 13 elections.

The last killing blamed on the group was March 20 in the Basque town of Lasarte.

Polls indicate the Popular Party, opposed to Basque independence, could win for the first time since the Basque country won limited self-rule in 1979.

Sunday's killing was the seventh blamed on ETA this year and the 30th since it ended a 14-month-old ceasefire in December 1999.

ETA has killed more than 800 people in its 33-year-old campaign for Basque independence.

Abad's funeral was held Monday afternoon in his hometown, Jaca, a village of 15,000 people at the foot of the Pyrenees mountains near the border with France.

At the service, the bishop of Jaca, Jose Maria Conget, said, "No ideology can justify terrorism. Terror is the enemy of humanity."

The killing was condemned by politicians, and all parties in the Basque elections except the pro-independence Euskal Herritarrok, widely considered ETA's political wing, suspended campaign events for Monday.

"We will defeat them with the rule of law," said Javier Arenas, president the national Popular Party.

"Basques have got to go and vote on May 13 and tell ETA that they are not wanted, that they have to disappear," said Carlos Iturgaiz, PP president in the Basque region.



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