Spanish military intelligence officer gunned down in Baghdad.

A Spanish intelligence officer was murdered in Baghdad Thursday when he opened the door of his home to a gang of gunmen, the second diplomat from the country which strongly supported the US-led war to die in as many months in Iraq.

The attack came as a suicide bombing outside a police station in the Iraqi capital killed at least eight people and the bomber, on the six-month anniversary of the fall of Baghdad and the ouster of Saddam Hussein.

The dead Spaniard was Jose Antonio Bernal Gomez, a military attache and intelligence official, the foreign ministry said.

"The official with the Spanish embassy in Iraq, an intelligence attache with the National Intelligence Center (CNI, the Spanish military intelligence service) on assignment with the Spanish diplomatic corps, died as a result of gunshots fired by a group of people who Thursday morning went to his home on the outskirts of the Iraqi capital," the ministry said in a statement.

"The undetermined number of attackers arrived at the home of Mr Bernal in a car bearing foreign license plates, (and) fired several times at the attache of the Spanish embassy when he opened the door," it said.

Spain said it deplored the "terrorist attack" against the diplomat -- whom the foreign ministry said had been on assignment in Iraq for the last two years - while vowing the embassy would remain open and not give in to "terrorist blackmail."

"This is a terrorist attack which alas has happened a lot in this country recently," Eduardo Zaplana, spokesman for the labor and social affairs ministry told journalists.

"Our embassy will not close, and we will not pull out our officials. We will not give in to terrorist blackmail, which is exactly what the terrorists want," the secretary of state for foreign affairs, Ramon Gil-Casares, told national radio.

The Baghdad correspondent of the Spanish daily newspaper El Pais, interviewed on private radio station Cadena Ser, said Bernal was cut down by machine-gun fire as he left his residence.

Defense ministry sources quoted by Spanish news agencies said Bernal was an officer in the air force and a member of the CNI who had remained in Baghdad during the US-led war which began March 20. A diplomatic source said Bernal was in his 30s, married and the father of a girl.

Spanish Foreign Minister Ana Palacio, who learned of the news in Paris where she was meeting her French counterpart Dominique de Villepin, was to continue her trip abroad and fly on to Turkey to take part in a Euromed forum, a diplomat said.

Bernal was the second Spanish diplomat to die violently in Iraq since the end of major combat operations in the country in early May.

On August 19, Manuel Martin Oar, a naval officer seconded to the United Nations, was one of 23 people killed in a bomb attack on the UN's headquarters in the Iraqi capital.

Spain is part of the US-led coalition that is occupying Iraq, and has some 1,250 soldiers in the country. The government of Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar was a strong supporter of the war, despite massive public opposition at home.

Two Spanish journalists on assignment in Iraq during the war died in early April, just before the fall of Baghdad.

[Source: Agence France-Presse, 10Oct03]

War in Iraq

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