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Basque Separatists Launch Bloody ’92 Campaign To Push For Talks

January 28, 1992

MADRID, Spain (AP) _ The scene captured last month by a bank’s security camera is so chilling because it looks so normal.

Two young men walk past the Barcelona bank’s entrance. Their faces are calm, their strides even. Moments later they will shoot dead two off-duty policemen at point-blank range.

Police say the men are members of the Basque separatist group ETA, and half of a roving ″commando″ unit that has left a trail of bodies up the Mediterranean coast from Alicante to Barcelona.

The attacks are part of an ETA campaign to pressure the government into negotiations before millions of visitors arrive in Spain for the Barcelona Summer Olympics and Expo ’92 in Seville.

ETA has claimed responsibility for killing 50 people since the beginning of last year. Half the deaths appear directly related to the 1992 events and police believe the roving commando team is responsible for nine of the deaths.

″Their objective is the same as always. They want to blackmail the state,″ Prime Minister Felipe Gonzalez said Jan. 16 when he learned the gunmen had killed two members of a military band in Barcelona.

″They will not succeed - not in such a significant year.″

Spain hopes to use the international spotlight on the Barcelona Games and Seville’s Universal Exposition to project an image of a modern, dynamic country 500 years after Christopher Columbus voyaged to America.

Spending on improvements to highways, rail lines, airports and telecommunications has reached $15 billion.

The Expo runs from Apr. 20 to Oct. 12. The Olympics open July 25 and close Aug. 9. Some 19 million people are expected to visit the Expo, while planners expect 500,000 visitors to the games.

ETA hopes to capitalize on the attention focused on 1992. The group has claimed responsibility for killing nearly 700 people in its 23-year campaign to win independence for the Basque region of three northern provinces.

″In 1992, ETA is going to pull out all the stops because it needs a show of force,″ said Jose Arzallus, the leader of the conservative Basque Nationalist Party, which heads the Basque regional government.

Authorities, speaking on condition of anonymity, said ETA has launched its campaign now because its leaders realize security will be too tight once the Olympics and Expo ’92 get under way.

The Interior Ministry’s budget director, Jose Antonio Parreno, was quoted by the Diario 16 newspaper as saying the ministry is spending $210 million to police the two events.

The number of police officers in Barcelona already has jumped from 8,000 to 10,500, officials say, with another 7,500 due to arrive by opening day. Eight thousand civil guards will patrol the city, up from 3,000 normally.

In Seville, 700 police officers will patrol the exposition site itself, with another 2,300 reinforcements added to the city’s existing force.

The security problems for the two events are numbing in their variety.

Corporate VIPs, for example, will be lodged on 10 luxury liners docked in Barcelona harbor during the Olympics.

Submarines will reportedly patrol the waters.

Update hourly