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Ex-Gov’t Minister Killed in Spain

November 22, 2000

BARCELONA, Spain (AP) _ Gunmen killed former Spanish government minister Ernest Lluch in this northeastern seaport city Tuesday, in an attack blamed on the Basque separatist group ETA, news reports said.

The shooting came two hours after a car-bomb blast blamed on the ETA shook a residential area on the city’s outskirts. No one was injured in the explosion.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility but authorities said the violence appeared to be the work of the Basque rebels, who have been fighting for a Basque independent state since 1968.

Lluch, 63, had served as health minister from 1982 to 1986 under former Socialist Prime Minister Felipe Gonzalez.

He was shot twice in the back of the head in the basement parking garage of the building where he lived, the national news agency Efe said.

Leaders of the Socialist party in Madrid were to hold an emergency meeting, the private news agency Europa Press said.

Socialist party deputy and friend of Lluch, Ramon Jauregui, told reporters that in killing Lluch, ETA had assassinated ``one of the first to unite democratic Basque nationalists against ETA.″

ETA has claimed 20 killings, including politicians, police and journalists, so far this year and some 800 since it began fighting for a Basque independent state in 1968.

On Tuesday morning, two grenades were thrown at a police station in the Basque town of Irun. There were no serious injuries or damages.

Blaming the separatist group ETA in the Irun attack, Carlos Iturgaiz, head of the Basque branch of the ruling Popular Party, said the group had ``failed in its attempt to cause death and destruction.″

After the attackers fled, police found a booby-trap explosive in a car near the police station. The vehicle also contained several grenade-launching tubes, a grenade and timers. Police carried out controlled explosion of the car later Tuesday.

Earlier this month, 10 policemen were injured when a booby-trapped cache of grenade launchers exploded near a police station in San Sebastian, near Irun.

ETA called off a 14-month cease-fire last December claiming the peace process was making no progress in bringing about an independent Basque state.

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