King Juan Carlos of Spain has paid his respects at the funeral of an undercover police officer, killed by gunmen suspected to be from the guerilla group ETA. They gave 24-year-old Raul Centeno full military honours at the Guardia Civil HQ in Madrid. Spain’s most senior dignitaries turned out to comfort the young officer’s family.
Centeno’s colleague, 23-year-old Fernando Trapero, is lying in intensive care, where doctors believe he too is brain dead. It is the first murder by the outlawed group ETA in almost a year. They have been waging a violent campaign for Basque independence for four decades.
The pair had been on a surveillance mission with French police in Capbreton, not far over the border in France. According to the French government they bumped into their targets by chance when they stopped for a coffee. The officers were shot point-blank as they got to their car.
The three assailants hi-jacked a car and its driver. She said: “One said they were from ETA, and they’d taken me just by chance. We went about 150 metres into the forest and they tied me to a pine-tree. They were putting a gag in my mouth. I was talking about my kids and my husband above all… “
As the French police continue their hunt for the fugitives, the shooting is expected to play a major role in the Spanish election due in three months. The government’s handling of ETA consistently ranks high on the list of voters’ concerns.