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Suspected ETA Members Kill Spanish Policeman  in Shootout - 2002-12-18

A Spanish policeman was killed and another was wounded Tuesday in a shootout with two suspected terrorists of the violent pro-Basque independence group ETA in the outskirts of Spain's capital. Authorities believe the suspects were about to plant a car bomb in Madrid.

It was mid-afternoon when two civil-guard policemen approached two men in a blue Ford Escort automobile near a gas station on the freeway just 38 kilometers outside the center of Madrid. As they were about to ask for identification papers one of the civil guards was shot at close range and died soon afterwards.

In the ensuing shoot-out his companion was hit in the arm. One of the men in the car was also wounded but the other escaped by seizing a car from its woman driver at gun point. He soon released her and made his getaway heading northwest abandoning the car in the city of Valladolid, some 200 kilometers to the northwest of Madrid. Before midnight authorities announced his arrest in the Basque city of San Sebastian.

Meanwhile, police began examining the car the suspects had been driving, and sniffer dogs detected explosives inside. A controlled-explosion was carried out and police estimated that the car had been carrying some 40 kilograms of explosives aboard. Authorities believe that the suspects intended to plant the car bomb in Madrid.

Spanish Prime Minister José María Aznar, who is in Washington and is due to meet with President Bush on Wednesday praised the efficacy of the Civil Guards in preventing a terrorist attack in Madrid and stressed his government's determination to root out terrorism in Spain.

The violent, Basque pro-independence group ETA has been listed as terrorist organization by the European Union and the United States. It is blamed for more than 800 killings since it began a campaign in the 1960 to establish an independent state in southern France and Northern Spain.