AFP - A French judge has charged three alleged ETA militants with terror offences and remanded them in custody, five days after they were arrested in possession of bomb making equipment, officials said Monday.
According to a judicial official, Aitzol Etxaburu Arteche, 30, Alberto Machain Beraza, 28, and Andoni Sarasola Yarzabal, 36, are accused of joining an illegal group with the intent of carrying out acts of terror.
They will also face charges related to holding illegal weapons. Anti-terror judge Laurence Le Vert held a late night hearing Sunday to place them under formal investigation, the first step on the road to a criminal trial.
All three were seized on Wednesday after a 20-strong group of French police commandos stormed their hideout, a rental flat in a multi-storey apartment block in the ski resort of Le Corbier in the French Alps.
The gang were armed with four pistols that had been among a batch of 350 stolen in a robbery at a weapons plant in southwestern France in October 2006 and had around 40 bomb detonators, according to the official.
Spanish officials described the trio as the leaders of an ETA logistics cell charged with supplying arms to militants fighting for an independent Basque homeland in part of northern Spain and southwestern France.
Following last week's arrest, French authorities have found at least six more ETA arms caches, holding 500 kilos (1,400 pounds) of explosives and six ready-to-use "limpet" bombs with suction pads to attach to cars.
ETA is blamed for the deaths of 828 people in its campaign and figures on several terrorist blacklists, including those of the European Union and the United States.
The group has tended to concentrate its attacks on Spanish targets while its militants use France as a rear base to hide out and rearm. In recent years French officials have arrested several senior suspects.