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Tuesday, 18 July, 2000, 01:18 GMT 02:18 UK
Protests against Basque violence
Protest march in Malaga
The biggest demonstration was in Malaga
By Flora Botsford in Madrid

Thousands of people gathered in towns and cities across Spain on Monday to protest against increasing violence by suspected Basque separatists.

Three attacks in less than a week have been blamed on the Basque separatist group, ETA.

More on ETA
ETA's bloody record
Leaders in the shadows
Timeline: Key events
The Irish connection
Who are the Basques?
Outside town halls, government offices and in the main squares of towns and cities across the country, people came to pay their respects to the dead and injured and to condemn ETA for the latest violence.

There were placards saying "Peace Yes - ETA No", "That's enough" and "No more terrorism".

By far the biggest demonstration took place in the southern city of Malaga, where a town councillor of the governing Popular Party was shot dead on Saturday night.

Josť Maria Martin Carpena had been on his way to an official function with his wife and daughter.

A woman demonstrator holding flowers
The public is angry at increasing violence
Politicians on all sides have condemned the killing - the sixth since ETA called off its ceasefire at the end of last year.

Amid what is being described as the worst escalation in violence for 10 years, the Spanish Interior Minister, Jaime Mayor Oreja, admitted the security forces could not protect all potential targets of ETA attacks. He said Mr Carpena's name had been on a hit list discovered among documents seized from an ETA cell.

The separatist group has frequently targeted members of the political and security establishment in its long-running fight for Basque independence.

Hours after the Malaga shooting, a car bomb exploded in a police barracks in Agreda in Soria Province, north-east of Madrid, injuring the wife of a Civil Guard officer.

But recent attacks have also focused on Spanish commercial interests. Last Wednesday, a car bomb destroyed part of a prestigious shopping centre in the heart of the capital, injuring nine people.

The recent violence comes amid a worsening political environment. The government is demanding that the moderate Basque Nationalist Party, the PNV, break off all contacts with ETA's political allies, while the PNV is clinging onto the principle of all-party talks as the future route to peace.

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See also:

16 Jul 00 | Europe
Spain hit by attacks
27 Jan 00 | From Our Own Correspondent
Fear and anger as ETA strikes
22 Jan 00 | Europe
Spain mourns bomb victim
21 Jan 00 | Europe
ETA blamed for car bombs
02 Dec 99 | Europe
ETA's bloody record
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