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ETA blamed for double killings

Civil guards inspect the remains of Mugica's vehicle  

MADRID, Spain -- The Basque separatist group ETA has been blamed for two violent attacks which have left a councillor and senior policeman dead in the space of hours.

The first incident killed politician Jose Javier Mugica after a bomb attached to the underside of his van blew up as he turned on the ignition, in the farming village of Leiza in northern Spain on Saturday afternoon.

Hours later a policeman belonging to the Basque region's autonomous Ertzaintza force was shot several times, including in the head, near the town of Tolosa, an official has said.

The officer, dressed in plain clothes, was sitting in his car on his way to have dinner with friends in the town of Leaburu when he was shot from behind at about 8.30 p.m. (1930 GMT)

The officer, Mikel Uribe, was the 44-year-old head of the force's disciplinary committee in the area of Guipuzcoa, reports said.

He died from his injuries at the Aranzazu hospital in San Sebastian, a hospital spokesman added.

The two separate incidents coincided with the swearing in of the re-elected Basque regional president Juan Jose Ibarretxe on Saturday morning.

He condemned the killing of Mugica, saying: "I want to express my condemnation and deep contempt for ETA's atrocities," The Associated Press said.

"This killing brings nothing but pain."

Mugica had been the target of previous reported ETA attacks.

The 50-year-old councillor was one of two members of the Union of the People of Navarra party sitting in the regional government, a centre-right party opposed to Basque separatism.

Mugica, who ran a photographic shop, had had threatening graffiti daubed on his home and shop as well as the headquarters of his party, the news agency Europa Press said.

It also said another vehicle owned by Mugica, a father of three, was the target of an arson attack last August.

The Pamplona bull run, held 20 miles from Leiza, carried out its San Fermin festival in silence after news of the killing.

Nobody has claimed responsibility for either attack but they bear all the hallmarks of ETA, a group that has claimed 800 lives in its 32-year struggle for a Basque homeland straddling the French-Spanish border.

Mugica's killing would be the 10th this year and the 33rd blamed on or claimed by the group since it ended a 14-month-old cease-fire in December 1999.

Prime minister Jose Maria Aznar told reporters: "Today I have one companion less in the party, but today we also have the same determination to defeat terrorism," according to Reuters.

Aznar has repeatedly ruled out making concessions to ETA separatists and has pledged to use force to defeat the group.

Navarra, which borders the Basque country, is home to many Basque speakers and its town council is dominated by Euskal Herritarrok, a party widely seen as ETA's political wing.

After the August attack, Mugica told the Efe news agency: "Each time they do something like this to me, it only makes me stronger."

• Spanish Government (in Spanish)
• Basque Country Government
• Navarra Government

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