Spanish guard killed by Basque separatists

A Spanish civil guard was shot and killed today in a clash with members of Basque separatist group Eta in south-west France, the first death involving the group since it abandoned a cease-fire in June, police said.

A Spanish civil guard was shot and killed today in a clash with members of Basque separatist group Eta in south-west France, the first death involving the group since it abandoned a cease-fire in June, police said.

Another Spanish officer was taken to hospital with serious injuries after the shooting in Cap-Breton, a resort town on the Atlantic coast, a French police official said. No other details were immediately available.

The officers had been conducting a routine joint anti-terrorist operation with French officers when they were shot, the two countries' interior ministries said.

Spanish and French police chasing Basque separatists often conduct operations on each other's territory. The guards had been tracking Eta members and were unarmed at the time of the shooting, the newspaper El Pais said on its website.

French Interior Minister Michele Alliot-Marie and Spanish Interior Minister Alfredo Perez Rubalcaba were heading to the site of the attack from a ministers' meeting in Germany.

Alliot-Marie, in a statement, called the killing an "odious act" and called for increased efforts to hunt the attackers.

Eta declared a ceasefire in March 2006, but grew frustrated with a lack of concessions in ensuing peace talks with the government.

It killed two people in a car bombing at Madrid airport in December 2006, and declared the truce formally over in June. Eta has staged several attacks since then but there had been no fatalities or serious injuries until today.

In its campaign for an independent Basque state, Eta has killed 800 people since the late 1960s.

Spain's governing Socialist Party, gathered at a rally in Madrid, asked for a minute of silence in memory of the dead guard. Mariano Rajoy, leader of the opposition, did the same at a similar rally in Madrid.

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