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Politician Killed in Basque Region

July 29, 2000

MADRID, Spain (AP) _ Two assailants shot and killed a Socialist politician in the Basque region Saturday in what police said was the 10th attack by the armed separatist ETA group in the last two weeks.

Police said Juan Maria Jauregui, a former representative of the Interior Ministry in northern Guipuzcoa Province, was shot twice in the head inside a bar in the town of Tolosa, 290 miles north of Madrid. He was rushed to a hospital, where he died several hours later.

The state-run Efe news agency said witnesses saw two men, each between 30 and 35 years old and wearing dark glasses, running from the bar after the shooting. Later, a car that may have been the getaway vehicle exploded and burned in a nearby town.

Although no one immediately claimed responsibility, police and local news media blamed ETA, the armed Basque separatist group. Jauregui, 49, served as representative of the Interior Ministry _ which directs national security forces _ from 1993-1996.

Jauregui, who was married and had a 19-year-old daughter, was on vacation in Spain at the time of the shooting. He has been living in Chile as a director of a chain of airport shops.

If the slaying proves to be the work of ETA, it would confirm that the clandestine organization is waging its most violent offensive since breaking a 14-month cease-fire in December. Just this month, ETA has been blamed for nine other attacks, including the killing of Jose Maria Martin Carpena, a town councilor in the southern city of Malaga.

``ETA is trying to test our cohesion as a society and our most strongly held democratic convictions,″ federal government spokesman Pio Cabanillas said hours after the killing.

Interior Minister Jaime Mayor Oreja, national civilian head of federal security forces, said the latest attack would not change the government’s policy of refusing to negotiate ETA’s demands for an independent Basque homeland.

Spain’s royal family, headed by King Juan Carlos I, sent condolences to the family of Jauregui and to the Socialist Party, calling the shooting a ``cowardly attack.″

Jauregui is to be buried on Sunday in his hometown, Legorreta, near Tolosa.

After the shooting, hundreds of people including the president of the Basque regional government gathered before the town hall in Tolosa to protest the slaying. Jauregui’s wife, Isabel Lasa, and daughter, Maria, joined neighbors in a silent vigil in Legorreta.

Nearly 800 people have been killed since 1968 in attacks blamed on the ETA and its campaign for Basque independence. ETA is a Basque-language acronym for Basque Homeland and Freedom.

Elsewhere Saturday, national police chief Juan Cotino said two suspected ETA members who were arrested Friday had been preparing an assassination attempt against Mayor Jose Atares of the northeastern city of Zaragoza. Cotino said an explosive device and other evidence was found in the house where the two were arrested.

Update hourly