Basque car bomb linked to ETA

Sarah Rodger 6 November 2008

17 people have been injured in an explosion linked to a Basque separatist movement.

The car bomb detonated in a car park near the University of Navarre in the northern Spanish city of Pamplona.

The bomb is thought to have been planted by ETA (Euskadi Ta Azkatasuna, ‘Basque Homeland and Freedom’), whose activities have caused the deaths of over 800 people since the late 1960s in its struggle for independence of ancient Basque territories in Spain and France.

ETA grew out of a student resistance movement that developed in the 1960s to oppose General Franco’s dictatorship.

Franco banned the Basque language and suppressed Basque culture, as well as imprisoning and torturing intellectuals with controversial political and cultural beliefs.

Some 1,000 students were in nearby buildings when the 70-80kg of explosives went off last Thursday, smashing windows of the university and setting nearby cars ablaze.

Pamplona’s mayor, Yolanda Barcina, said she was amazed the casualty toll was not higher.

The attack came just two days after Spanish police arrested four suspected ETA guerrillas they claim had been planning attacks in the Navarre region.

“ETA has once again displayed its vileness,” said Jose Antonio Alonso, spokesman in Parliament for Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapaptero’s Socialist party.

ETA has been held responsible for three deaths so far this year.

The current attack comes after over 20,000 demonstrators took to the streets throughout the Spanish Basque Country on October 25, demanding the right to a referendum on independence.

The regional government had originally planned to hold a vote on ‘the right to decide’ on October 25, but this was declared illegal in a unanimous decision made in September by Spain’s Supreme Court, on the grounds that the plan was ‘unconstitutional’.

It was intended that the vote would have allowed for a potential dialogue with ETA, as well as negotiations towards a full referendum on independence within two years.

Mr Zapatero has portrayed the proposed referendum as just political maneuvering ahead of regional elections next March, but in a newspaper interview the head of the Basque Country government, Juan Jose Ibarretxe, said that Madrid had shown an arrogant disregard for the rights of the Basque people.

Although the polls do not show a majority in favour of independence, Mr Ibarretxe has pledged to continue to seek a way for Basques to decide their relationship with the rest of Spain if he wins regional elections next year.

Sarah Rodger