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Hundreds rally in anti-ETA protest

ETA death
Ortiz's coffin is carried through crowds of mourners on Wednesday  

MADRID, Spain (CNN) -- Hundreds of people have gathered in the Spanish capital to protest over the latest killing blamed on the Basque separatist group ETA.

The mass rally on Wednesday evening followed a day of demonstrations across Spain over the death of policeman Luis Ortiz de la Rosa.

A former colleague of Ortiz read out a statement expressing sorrow over his death at the protest in the Puerta del Sol plaza in the centre of Madrid.

"ETA's genocidal character is made clear in all of its attacks," the statement said.

Thousands of Spaniards took to the streets earlier in the day, standing outside government buildings across the country at noon to demonstrate against Ortiz's killing.

graphic Basque conflict: Violence in Spain

  • Overview
  • Living in fear
  • Standing vigil
  • ETA background
  • Q&A on ETA
  • ETA timeline
  • Map: Violence
  • Video archive
  • Recent stories

He died in a bomb blast while responding to a bomb alert in Madrid on Tuesday evening.

Politicians attending the opening of the Basque parliament held a minute's silence before a debate on the swearing in of moderate nationalist regional president Juan Jose Ibarretxe.

CNN's Al Goodman said the bomb was intended to send a message to the Basque parliament.

The parliament has vowed to continue to work for an end to ETA attacks, but the seven members of the pro-ETA political party Euskal Herritarrok entered the chamber 10 minutes into the session, missing the tribute.

Ibarretxe, leader of the Basque Nationalist Party, said: "ETA is the enemy of the (Basque) country and the country has to respond in a united fashion in order to defend its freedoms.

"We have overcome serious challenges in the economic and social areas. Now we must achieve lasting peace, and I commit myself to finding a solution to the so-called Basque problem."

Spanish Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar, along with other dignitaries, were among the mourners at the policeman's funeral on Wednesday morning. He presented Ortiz's widow with a gold medal of honour for her slain husband.

The 33-year-old policeman died while trying to close off the area in a southern suburb of the capital following the bomb warning.

A bystander walks past wreckage from the blast in Madrid on Tuesday
A bystander walks past wreckage from the blast in Madrid on Tuesday  

The national anthem was played as the coffin of Ortiz, a father of a 17-month-old girl, was carried from the government building where the ceremony was held.

No group has so far claimed responsibility, but the explosion bears the hallmarks of ETA.

Spanish Interior Minister Mariano Rajoy said the latest bomb attack in Madrid indicated that ETA was operating a special unit in the capital and he pledged to tighten security.

Another car bomb was set off on the eve of Basque elections on May 13 in which the radical party linked to ETA suffered a heavy defeat, losing nearly half its seats as its share of the vote plunged to about 10 percent, a fall of 8 percent on its previous election return. ETA is blamed for about 800 killings in its 33-year fight for independence, including 32 deaths since it called off a unilateral cease fire in December 1999.

The group has not claimed responsibility for all of those killings. When ETA claims responsibility for attacks, it typically does so in the Basque media, sometimes days or weeks after the attacks occur.

The most recent attack blamed on ETA was on June 28, when a bomb hidden in bicycle in Madrid was exploded by remote control, injuring an army division commander

• Interior Ministry (in Spanish)
• Association for Peace in the Basque Country

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