Spain in mourning for slain politician

MADRID, Spain - Thousands marched in silence in cities across Spain on Sunday evening to mourn the slaying of a politician, the latest death in a string of attacks blamed on Basque separatists.

Juan Maria Jauregui, a 49-year-old Socialist Party politician, was shot at close range Saturday by two men thought to be members of the separatist group ETA. The gunmen escaped.

The biggest rally was in the northern coastal city of San Sebastian, where 20,000 people walked through the center of town behind a banner that read ''That's enough, ETA no''.

The march brought together political rivals in a show of unity against ETA, and was led by Jauregui's widow, Maria Isabel Lasa, and his 19-year-old daughter, Maria.

Other silent vigils were held in Madrid, Seville, Pamplona and other Spanish cities to demand an end to separatist violence that has killed nearly 800 people in a three-decade campaign for Basque independence.

Spanish Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar, who visited the Basque region earlier Sunday to pay his condolences to Jauregui's family, said attacks by ETA will not change the government's tough line on the armed group and warned separatists that they ''have reasons to be worried, very worried, and they will soon see why''

Aznar's government refuses to talk with ETA until the separatists lay down their arms.

Pope John Paul II on Sunday joined the condemnation, denouncing ''the wave of terrorism lashing Spain.''

Jauregui was killed Saturday when two men walked into a cafe in the Basque region, where he was on vacation, and shot him twice in the head. He was the seventh person killed in attacks blamed on the armed group this year.

ETA has allegedly increased its offensive this month, with at least 10 attacks. The recent increase in attacks has inflamed anger against ETA and criticism of the Basque regional government, which is being urged to break ties with politicians close to ETA.

ETA - a Basque-language acronym for Basque Homeland and Liberty - has been fighting for an independent homeland in northern Spain and southwestern France since the late 1960s. Basques have a unique and ancient language and culture.

Jauregui, who was once a militant of the Spanish Communist Party and was detained during late Gen. Francisco Franco's 1939-75 dictatorship, served as the Interior Ministry's regional delegate from 1994-96, coinciding with the last term of Socialist Prime Minister Felipe Gonzalez.

During his two-year term, Jauregui backed the investigation of death squads sponsored by the prominent Socialist officials that targeted suspected Basque separatists in the early 1980s. Jauregui had been living in Chile for the past three years as a director of Aldeasa, a Spanish chain of airport duty-free shops.


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