Eight arrested over attack on Civil Guard officers in northern Spain

All those detained were radical left-wing Basque separatists, sources have told EL PAÍS

Around 50 people attacked the off-duty officers outside this bar in Alsasua, Navarre.
Around 50 people attacked the off-duty officers outside this bar in Alsasua, Navarre.

At least eight people have been arrested in relation to the attack on two off-duty members of the Civil Guard and their girlfriends in the small community of Alsasua, in Spain’s northern Navarre region on October 15.

The suspects detained are said to be members of the radical left-wing Basque nationalist OSPA movement, which backs the Alde Hemendik (“get out of here”) campaign targeting Spain’s Civil Guard and Navarre’s regional police force.

Anti-terrorist sources told EL PAÍS the five arrests took place early on Monday morning at various homes in Alsasua. The investigation is still open, the same sources said.

The arrests come a month after a group attack in which 50 people – all supporters of Basque independence – beat up two off-duty civil guards and their girlfriends. All four needed hospital treatment, with one of the officers sustaining a fractured ankle.

The government of Navarre, which is currently headed by the left-leaning Uxue Barkos, condemned the attack, saying “it has no place in a democratic society.”

Spain’s High Court launched an investigation into the attack, saying it fell under Spanish terrorism legislation. So far, 12 people have been identified in relation to the assault.

The incident, which came just before the fifth anniversary of the announcement of a definitive ceasefire by Basque terror group ETA, has illustrated the complexities of peaceful coexistence in municipalities with a strong presence of radical Basque nationalists, and of Navarre’s place within the wider Basque homeland that these activists claim independence for.

Alsasua has long been viewed as a bastion of radical Basque nationalists known as the abertzale, and has a long history of attacks against people and property. The mid-October assault is the latest chapter in an ongoing story of violent incidents that appeared to have subsided following the ETA ceasefire.

Radical nationalist circles claimed the attack had been invented to undermine their movement. Some protestors used the Basque phrase “Alde hemendik” (“get out of here”) at law enforcement officers in the area.

English version by George Mills and Nick Lyne.

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