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Senior ETA members arrested in remote village

Text by News Wires

Latest update : 2011-03-11

French and Spanish police say they have arrested four suspected members of Basque separatist group ETA, including the organisation's alleged military chief, in a remote village in northern France.

AP – The suspected leader of the Basque separatist group ETA’s armed cells and three other alleged members of the organization were arrested in France, Spanish and French officials said Friday.

The arrests came in a joint raid Thursday night by French and Spanish police in Willencourt in northern France’s Pas-de-Calais region, officials said. Spain-based ETA members often hide out in France, which cooperates closely with Madrid in hunting down suspects.
 
ETA declared a cease-fire in September and went further in January by calling it permanent, raising hopes for an end to Europe’s last armed political militancy. But the Spanish government is insisting ETA dissolve outright and ruling out talks. It says it will not let up against ETA and continues to make arrests regularly.
 
One of the four nabbed Thursday night is Alejandro Zobaran Arriola, 29, who an Interior Ministry statement described as the head of ETA’s “military apparatus.” Another is the alleged logistics chief, Mikel Oroz Torrea, 31, the statement said.
 
Many ETA-watchers in Spain say the group is divided between a hard core that does not want to give up violence as a way to press for Basque independence and other members more willing to abandon the armed struggle and work peacefully toward that goal.
 
Government spokesman Ramon Jauregui dodged the question Friday when asked at a news conference if the new arrests including two key suspects meant the hardliners were now all in custody and that ETA might come out with a new, conciliatory communique.
 
He praised French-Spanish cooperation in the fight against ETA and said “these arrests weaken ETA even more and bring us closer to the end of the violence.”
 
ETA has been decimated by arrests in recent years and dwindling support at the grass roots levels.
 
Over the past two and half years, no fewer than five ETA leaders have been arrested. It was not immediately clear if the Spanish government considers Zobaran Arriola to have been the group’s overall chief or just very senior within the organization.
 
The group has killed more than 825 people since launching its campaign for an independent Basque homeland in northern Spain and southwest France in the late 1960s.

 

Date created : 2011-03-11

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