French and Spanish police are congratulating each other after a dawn raid in Britanny captured the suspected head of ETA’s political wing, Batasuna, Aitor Elizaran, and his companion Oihana Sanvicente.
It comes just days after ETA leader Arnaldo Otegi was detained, and may be as a result of his interrogation.
The latest arrests were made in Carnac in an operation says Madrid of the utmost importance, and the fight continues says the Spanish Interior Minister:
“A year ago in Bordeaux in May the former chief of ETAs political apparatus was arrested. That was Francisco Javier Pena. A year has passed, and now the new chief has been arrested, too,” said Alfredo Pérez Rubalcalba.
The double blows over the weekend to the Basque militants are hard to quantify as the organisation’s hierarchy has traditionally been hard to pin down, but the police seem sure they have got the right people.
With arms dumps also being uncovered in France ETA is being weakened, but by how much no-one is quite sure.
euronews channel-Spanish prosecutors have begun questioning Batasuna leaders arrested yesterday in a crackdown on the banned political allies of the armed Basque separatist group ETA.
The 10 detained included Batasuna leader Arnaldo Otegi, who has already served time for praising terrorism. It is reported those arrested are accused of trying to reform the Batasuna party leadership on the instructions of ETA.
It is one of several political parties banned under
2003 legislation outlawing those who do not condemn terrorism.
Spanish media say the new operation against the Basque nationalist extremists was ordered by anti-terrorism judge, Baltasar Garzon.
ETA continues to mount violent attacks but it has been weakened by a series of arrests in Spain and France in recent years.
Police in the French city of Montpellier have arrested two men suspected of being members of the Basque separatists group ETA.
The two were were stopped near Ales after being chased in their car by police.
Iurgi Mendinueta is thought to be the number two in ETA’s military wing. He was arrested with Joanes Larretxea.
The arrests come as a result of a police surveillance operation on a suspected arms cache in a nearby wooded area.
In a separate development a 29-year-old Spanish man was detained near Pau in southwest France after turning himself in with an apparent gunshot wound to the hand.
Earlier in the Spanish town of Alicante, a hiker found a suspicious container on a hillside which police have since reported contained bomb-making equipment.
A Europe-wide arrest warrant has been issued after a suspected Basque terrorist was set free by mistake. Maite Aranalde is accused of possessing explosives and of terrorism-related attacks. She was arrested in France and sent to Spain last Wednesday. But a vital part of the paperwork went missing, and she was released on bail two days later. She hasn’t been seen since.
“This doesn’t mean that Franco-Spanish cooperation failed, honestly I am not saying that,” said the Spanish Interior Minister Alfredo Perez Rubalcaba. “There was a bureaucratic error in France, and I can tell you that no-one regrets that more than the French.”
France and Spain have recently landed some blows onETA. Three men arrested at a French ski resort are thought to have been involved in a car bombing in Mallorca which killed two Civil Guards at the end of July. At the same time, 13 caches of arms were discovered on the French side of the Pyrenees, believed to have been hidden by ETA for future attacks.
Another cache of buried weapons linked to the Basque separatist group ETA is dug up by French police. Thirteen such discoveries have been made in the space of a week, mostly in secluded rural areas in southern France — explosives, detonators, ready-to-use bombs, firearms and ammunition.
The latest blow to ETA’s supply network came as the French and Spanish interior ministers met in Paris to consolidate cross-border police cooperation.
Alfredo Pérez Rubalca said: “The determination of France and Spain against ETA is total. ETA can change its methods, hide, find new hoards, go south or north but we can guarantee you that we will find them, and will put an end to their operations.”
Pérez Rubalca said he was also addressing the terrorists and anyone wanting to become one.
The unearthing of the deadly material follows the breakthrough arrests in the French Alps of three men described by Spanish officials as leaders of an ETAlogistics cell.
More than 800 murders have been attributed to the outlawed group in ETA’s decades-long fight for an independent Basque homeland in parts of northern Spain and southwestern France.