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Madrid readies for possible ETA attack during its EU presidency

Text by News Wires

Latest update : 2009-12-30

Spain's interior ministry has raised its terrorist alert level amid concerns that the armed Basque separatist group ETA may be planning a "spectacular" attack during Madrid's upcoming six-month presidency of the European Union.

AFP - Spain raised its terrorist alert level on Tuesday, a day after warning that the armed Basque separatist group ETA may be planning an attack or kidnapping during Madrid's upcoming EU presidency.

It upped the level from one to two on a scale of four, indicating a "probable risk of a terrorist attack," the interior ministry said in a statement, basing its decision on information from security services.

Spanish Interior Minister Alfredo Perez Rubalcaba warned late Monday that ETA could stage a "spectacular" attack or kidnapping during Spain's six-month presidency of the European Union, which begins on Friday, in an attempt to prove it is still strong despite a series of setbacks.

Spain has planned a number of summits with third countries during its EU presidency, including those with the United States and with Latin America.

The interior ministry statement on Tuesday also noted an increased risk of attack during the New Year holiday season, as well as the continued "international terrorist threat" after an alleged attempt to blow up a US-bound flight from Amsterdam on Christmas Day.

Basque radio station Euskadi said late Tuesday it had access to a police document indicating that ETA was planning major actions in the coming days -- an attack against a ministry or a police barracks and the kidnapping of a senior personality.

ETA, considered a terrorist organisation by both the European Union and the United States, is held responsible for 828 deaths in a 41-year campaign for independence in the Basque region of northern Spain and southwestern France.

In mid-2007 the group called off a 15-month-old ceasefire following a deadlock in tentative peace talks with the Spanish government.

Since then Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero's Socialist government has taken a hard line against it, repeatedly ruling out new negotiations while operations by Spanish and French police have weakened ETA's leadership.

The last deaths claimed by ETA were those of two police officers who were killed in a car bombing on July 30 on the holiday island of Majorca in the Mediterranean.

Date created : 2009-12-30


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