New York, May 24, 2001 — Santiago Oleaga Elejabarrieta, chief financial officer of the regional daily El Diario Vasco, was shot dead this morning in the Basque port city of San Sebastián. The murder was widely attributed to the militant Basque separatist organization ETA.
Oleaga, 54, was shot seven times in the head, neck, and back by a lone gunman as he got out of his car around 8:30 a.m. in a parking lot outside the Matía Hospital. He was there to undergo physical therapy for an injured shoulder, according to local press reports. He died immediately.
Local police have blamed the killing on ETA. Seven 9mm bullet casings, a caliber commonly used by the terrorist group, were found at the scene of the murder.
“We mourn the death of Santiago Oleaga Elejabarrieta,” said CPJ executive director Ann Cooper. “It is quite clear that Oleaga was attacked by cold-blooded terrorists who hoped that killing a media professional would attract publicity to their cause. CPJ urges Spanish authorities to find these criminals and bring them to justice.”
Police believe that at least one accomplice awaited the gunman in a vehicle that was parked nearby. One hour after Oleaga’s murder, a car was blown up within a mile of the murder scene. Police theorize that Oleaga’s attackers destroyed the car after using it to flee.
Oleaga had been attending daily therapy sessions at the hospital for a month. He had not received any threats, and was not protected by bodyguards, according to local press reports.
This is the latest of several attacks against Spanish media professionals that have taken place since December 1999, when ETA broke a 14-month ceasefire with the Spanish government and renewed its terror campaign.
Last year, editors at several newspapers in San Sebastián and in the capital, Madrid, received letter bombs or bomb threats. In February 2001, the Basque police uncovered an ETA plot to bomb the San Sebastián offices of El Diario Vasco, according to local papers. El Diario Vasco has been known for its strong opposition to ETA terrorism.
And on May 15, Basque journalist Gorka Landaburu was seriously injured after opening a letter bomb.