updated 6/19/2009 6:26:07 AM ET 2009-06-19T10:26:07

A powerful car bomb exploded Friday near the Basque city of Bilbao, killing a policeman in an attack blamed on the separatist group ETA.

In what appeared to be the first ETA killing since December, the bomb went off in a parking lot in Arrigorriaga. Amateur video footage obtained by AP Television News showed flames shooting out of the vehicle.

The victim was a member of the Spanish National Police, said the Basque interior minister Rodolfo Ares.

ETA blamed
Basque President Patxi Lopez, a Socialist handling his first bombing since taking power in May, blamed ETA and vowed to crush the group.

"We are going to do away with them," he said. "They have shown us the path to pain. We are going to show them the path to jail."

Spanish news reports said the bomb was attached to the underside of the car and went off when the officer started the engine. This is a technique often used by ETA. Ares said he could not yet confirm the details of the attack.

The officer was identified as Eduardo Antonio Pueyes Garcia, 49, a married father of two. The newspaper El Pais said he was a senior officer with a unit assigned to fighting ETA.

If ETA involvement were confirmed, it would be the group's first deadly attack since Lopez's new, non-nationalist government took power in the troubled region on May 7. That ended nearly 30 years of rule by the Basque Nationalist Party, which governed on a platform that flirted with independence from Spain.

E

TA has blown up electrical towers since the March 1 Basque election but no one has been hurt.

The group has been hit by the arrest of three senior leaders and many other members over the past year and the government has described the organization as seriously weakened.

ETA's last fatal attack was the shooting of businessman Ignacio Uria Mendizabal in the town of Azpeitia, near San Sebastian, in December.

Hundreds killed
ETA has killed more than 825 people since it launched a campaign in the late 1960s for an independent homeland.

It declared what it called a permanent cease-fire in 2006, but reverted to violence in a matter of months after peace talks with the Spanish government went nowhere.

"Once again, terrorists have taken the life of a worker serving our people, a National Police agent whose only crime was to work day in and day out to guarantee the safety and freedom of the Basque people," Lopez said.

More on Spain   |  ETA

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