April 4, 2010 / 10:36 AM / in 9 years

ETA says France to blame for policeman's death

MADRID (Reuters) - The Basque separatist group ETA said on Sunday the French police started the shootout last month which led to the death of one of the French officers by firing at an ETA militant who was lying on the ground and unarmed.

Jean-Serge Nerin is thought to be the first policeman killed by ETA in France, where the separatists stash weapons and hide members who cross the border into Spain to carry out bombings and shootings.

“They were the first to fire (on an ETA member) who was on the ground and unarmed,” the group said in a statement published in Basque newspaper Gara.

ETA has tried to avoid direct confrontation with France in its 50 year armed struggle to carve out an independent Basque state from parts of Spain and France. More than 850 people have been killed.

The separatists said they had not intended to kill Nerin, who was killed when he intercepted ETA members with stolen cars in a suburb near Paris.

“ETA militants fired a total of nine shots, the French police fired considerably more,” the ETA statement said.

Nerin’s death led French President Nicolas Sarkozy to reiterate his pledge to root out ETA bases in the country..

Reporting by Arantza Goyoaga; writing by Jonathan Gleave,

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