France: Suspected Basque separatists kill Spanish officer

The suspects, two men and a woman, briefly kidnap a woman and steal her car to flee the area.

A Spanish civil guard was shot and killed Saturday by suspected members of Basque separatist group ETA in southwest France, officials said, the first death involving the group since it abandoned a cease-fire in June. The suspects, two men and a woman, later briefly kidnapped a woman and stole her car to flee the area, a police official said. They released the hostage 90 minutes later and were being pursued by French and Spanish police, said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media. Another Spanish officer was hospitalized with serious injuries after the shooting in Capbreton, a resort town on the Atlantic coast, the Spanish and French interior ministries said. "Today ETA has committed a criminal act," said Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, who identified the dead guard as Raul Centeno and the injured man as Fernando Trapero. Zapatero said both were "very young." "Forty years of black terrorist history have not been enough for them to learn to judge the immense strength of Spain's society," said Zapatero, who added that nothing could be attained through terrorist violence. The officers had been conducting a routine joint anti-terrorist operation with French officers when they were shot, the two countries' interior ministries said. Spanish and French police chasing Basque separatists often conduct operations on each other's territory. The guards were unarmed at the time of the shooting, the newspaper El Pais said on its Web site. French Interior Minister Michele Alliot-Marie said the guards had been tracking ETA members "who come to French territory to seek refuge or to prepare operations." Alliot-Marie and Spanish Interior Minister Alfredo Perez Rubalcaba were heading to the site of the attack from a ministers' meeting in Germany. Alliot-Marie, in a statement, called the killing an "odious act" and called for increased efforts to hunt the attackers. ETA declared a cease-fire in March 2006 but grew frustrated with a lack of concessions in ensuing peace talks with the government. It killed two people in a car bombing at Madrid airport in December 2006, and declared the truce formally over in June. ETA has staged several attacks since then but there had been no fatalities or serious injuries until Saturday. In its campaign for an independent Basque state, ETA has killed 800 people since the late 1960s. Spain's governing Socialist Party, gathered at a rally in Madrid, asked for a minute of silence in memory of the dead guard. Mariano Rajoy, leader of the opposition, did the same at a similar rally in Madrid.