Anti-terrorist police are looking for several suspected Basque separatists from ETA after a French policeman was shot dead near Paris yesterday.
52-year-old Jean-Serge Nerin was hit in the chest after his patrol investigated the theft of several vehicles from a used car depot.
One man was arrested at the scene but the rest escaped.
Police believe that ETA or their sympathisers carried out the attack. One officer said a Basque dialect was heard at the time of the shooting.
The man arrested has been named as Joseba Fernandez Aspurz. The 27-year-old has been wanted by Spanish police for street violence.
It is thought to be the first time that a French police officer has died at the hands of ETA.
The Spanish prime minister Jose Luis Zapatero said the impact was the same as if the victim had been a member of his own country’s security services. He described the attack as a criminal act carried out by the terrorist group ETA, and said France had paid a high price for working with Spain in fighting it. “I would like to express my solidarity and gratitude to France, the French police and the French government”, he added.
The past year has seen several confrontations between ETA and French police. According to French media reports the separatist group is thought to have up to 80 active members on French soil.
It is blamed for the deaths of more than 800 people in its 40-year campaign for an independent Basque state.