Page last updated at 21:28 GMT, Thursday, 30 July 2009 22:28 UK

Eta 'under pressure to attack'

By Marian Hens
BBC News, Madrid

Civil Guard at scene of bombing, 30 July, 2009
Eta's support has eroded in recent years

The Spanish government had been making provision for potential attacks by the militant separatist group Eta ahead of its 50th anniversary on Friday.

But the violence of the blasts that have left two Civil Guards dead and more than 60 people injured in separate incidents has taken Spain by surprise.

The Basque organisation has, in the past, targeted holidaymakers - but mostly in low-level campaigns aimed at causing disruption.

The group also unsuccessfully planned to kill the Spain's King Juan Carlos in Majorca in 1995 and 2004.

But Thursday's attack is the first to have claimed lives there.

Eta is trying to present this latest blow as a sign of its renewed strength.

After the arrest of its leadership, and the success of the anti-terrorist campaign launched by the Spanish and the French authorities, the armed Basque separatists had been gradually losing ground.

Drop in support

In recent years, Eta has also seen its political base eroded, and support in the Basque Country drop to the lowest level in the group's history.

But many observers agree that, although the latest attacks show Eta's willingness to kill and its ability to cause serious injury, they should not be interpreted as an increase in the group's operational capacity.

The attacks, in peak holiday season, seem to be a response to growing pressure on Eta to show that it is still able to strike.

But the blasts in Burgos and Majorca cannot hide what the group itself has admitted in documents seized by the police earlier in the year - that Eta is experiencing "an operational crisis"; that the organisation has "exhausted a cycle" and that it "has lost appeal among its followers".

Txema Matanzas, one of Eta's most prominent leaders, recently described the group's situation as "chaotic" and declared from his prison cell that it was time for Eta "to put up the shutters".

The campaign of violence is preventing any political solution to a conflict that many analysts describe as "a relic in Europe".

The Spanish Prime Minister, Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, called off peace talks with Eta after it planted a massive car bomb at Madrid's Barajas airport in 2006, and killed two people.

The group is suspected of eight attacks this year, including a car bomb in June that killed a policeman.

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