Army officer killed by car bomb after ETA warning

MADRID, Spain (AP) – A car bombing blamed on the armed Basque group ETA killed an army officer and wounded six people in northern Spain early Monday, the Interior Ministry said. It is the third such attack in 24 hours in what appeared to be a stepped-up ETA offensive.

The bomb went off shortly after 1 a.m. outside an army academy in the northern town of Santona, where an evacuation was under way at several buildings because of an earlier ETA bomb warning call, a ministry spokesman told The Associated Press. He was speaking on condition of anonymity in keeping with ministry regulations.

It was the third car bomb in 24 hours blamed on ETA, which is considered a terrorist group by Spain, the European Union and the United States. The blasts came days after a Spanish court banned two pro-independence Basque political parties for having ETA links.

The bomb killed Brig. Luis Conde de la Cruz, 46. One of the six people wounded, an army captain, was in serious condition, the spokesman said. The blast happened as people were being evacuated from the army academy and other buildings following a bomb warning call to authorities in the neighboring Basque region.

The officer had been on holiday in the coastal town.

The bomb blew a huge hole in the ground outside the academy and caused considerable damage to buildings and cars in the area.

“Today, ETA has killed once again and has sown pain and horror in a corner of Spain,” Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero said. “It has done it in its customary manner, regardless of the consequences and seeking the most damage possible.”

Spain, he added “will never yield to the dictates of the terrorist group ETA. It will force the assassins to face the weight of the law and justice.”

Interior Minister Alfredo Perez Rubalcaba and Defense Minister Carme Chacon flew to the town of Santona on Monday. Rubalcaba told reporters police believed the three cars used had been stolen and prepared in France.

ETA has been conducting shootings and bombings since 1968 for an independent Basque state in northern Spain and southwestern France. It has killed more than 825 people.

On Sunday, a car bomb exploded next to the headquarters of a bank on the outskirts of the Basque capital of Vitoria. It caused damage, but no one was reported injured.

Several hours later, a second car bomb in the Basque town of Ondarroa exploded outside a police station, wounding three officers and seven civilians.

ETA normally claims responsibility for its attacks in statements weeks later.

So far this year, the group has taken credit for killing a former town councilor and a Civil Guard officer.

In recent months, it has mostly set off small bombs in seaside resorts.

The northern Basque region is one of 17 semiautonomous regions in Spain and among the strongest economically. It has its own language and culture, and is home to strong nationalist sentiment.