Businessman who refused to pay Eta extortion killed


JUST TWO weeks after French police arrested Garikoitz Aspiazu, the alleged leader of Eta, two gunmen yesterday afternoon shot and killed Ignacio Uria, a leading Basque businessman, as he left his office to meet a group of friends in a restaurant for a game of cards, writes  Jane Walkerin Madrid

Police have little doubt that the killing, in the small town of Azpeitia, was the work of Eta as Mr Uria (71) is known to have received threats for his refusal to pay "revolutionary taxes" or extortion money. In spite of this, he did not use a bodyguard or change his regular routine.

Witnesses say two men approached Mr Uria and shot him in the head and chest. Although doctors fought to save his life, he died before he could be taken to hospital. His death is the fourth Eta killing so far this year.

The gunmen escaped in an Alfa Romeo car which they had stolen at gunpoint earlier in the morning, leaving the owner tied up. He was found unharmed several hours later and the burned-out remains his car were discovered on a mountain track not far from Azpeitia.

Mr Uria's company, which employs 370 workers, has contracts to build part of the high-speed train route, known as the "Basque Y", linking Madrid with Bilbao and the French border. Eta has threatened to bring a halt to the rail link, which they say is "against the interests of the Basque people and will increase economic dependence on Spain". Many companies involved in the project have been targeted and workers have been threatened.

The assassination has been vehemently condemned by politicians of all hues. Juan José Ibarretxe, the lehendakari (president) of the Basque government, spoke in unusually strong terms.

Addressing a meeting of local businessmen he said: "Terrorists have killed a good man. At a time of economic crisis, when we most need your efforts, Eta has taken one of your own . . . Eta is torturing us all. These killings must come to an end."