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Last Updated: Sunday, 2 December 2007, 14:47 GMT
Spain buries murdered policeman
French police work on the scene where suspected members of Eta shot dead a Spanish civil guard
French police are hunting three suspects who fled the scene

Spanish prime minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero has attended the funeral in Madrid of a Spanish civil guard killed in south-west France.

Two plain-clothed officers were shot by suspected members of the Basque group Eta while carrying out a surveillance operation with French police.

The second officer, said to be badly wounded at the time, is now reported to be in a deep coma in hospital.

The three Eta suspects escaped the scene in a hijacked car.

It was the first killing attributed to Eta since the group ended a ceasefire in June.

The flag-draped coffin of 24-year-old Raul Centeno was saluted by King Juan Carlos, as well as Mr Zapatero and other dignitaries.

'Brain dead'

Raul Centeno and his colleague Fernando Trapero were shot from close range as they were getting into their cars outside a cafe at about 0930 (0830 GMT) on Saturday, in the Atlantic resort of Capbreton, police sources said.

Mr Trapero, 23, is in a deep coma and showing no signs of brain activity, according to hospital officials in Bayonne, south-west France.


French Interior Minister Michele Alliot-Marie said the joint police operation was being carried out against Eta members "who come to French territory to seek refuge or to prepare operations".

She said the shooting apparently followed a "chance encounter" between the undercover agents and the suspects in the cafe.

After a confrontation the guards were murdered "in cold blood", Ms Alliot-Marie said.

French police are hunting three suspects - two men and a woman - who fled the scene, kidnapping a woman and driving her car north, before leaving her tied to a tree in a forest near Bordeaux, 160km (100 miles) away.

'Violence futile'

Spanish Civil Guard Raul Centeno, shot dead in France
Spanish Civil Guard Raul Centeno was 24

Earlier Mr Zapatero condemned the killers.

"Spanish society, united by the sacrifice of Raul Centeno and Fernando Trapero, shows its deep disgust with those who - scorning the most fundamental right, the right to life - are trying to frighten the citizens as a whole," he said.

"Forty years of black terrorist history haven't been enough for them to realise the great strength of Spanish society. Hundreds of deaths and hundreds of victims haven't made them understand that they won't achieve anything with violence."

Eta uses parts of south-western France as a base, even though it carries out most of its operations against Spanish targets in Spain.

Spanish media said it appeared to be the first killing by Eta in France in decades.

The group wants an independent Basque state in northern Spain and south-western France.

It declared a ceasefire in March 2006 but broke it with a car bombing at Madrid airport in December 2006 that killed two people.

It formally ended its truce in June.

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