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ETA leader arrested in French raid

Javier Lopez Pena, alias "Thierry", the man considered by Spanish authorities to be the top political leader of the Basque separatist group ETA, was arrested in a raid in southwestern France Tuesday night.

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The suspected top political leader of the Basque separatist group ETA was arrested Tuesday in southwestern France in a joint operation by French and Spanish police, Spanish anti-terrorism sources said.

Javier Lopez Pena, alias "Thierry", who is considered by Spanish authorities be the top political leader of ETA, was among the four people detained in the raid in the southwestern city of Bordeaux.

The organisation is blamed for the deaths of over 820 people in its 40-year campaign for an independent Basque nation.

The other three arrested in the operation against ETA's political leadership were named as Ainhoa Zaeta Mendiondo, Igor Suberbiola and Jon Salaberria.

On the run since 1983, the Spanish interior ministry considers "Thierry" to be one of those behind the December 2006 car bomb attack on a car park at Madrid's airport that killed two people and ended a ceasefire declared by the organisation.

According to Spanish media he participated in the failed 2006 peace talks between the Spanish government and ETA, and was one of those who pushed for ending the ceasefire.

ETA's latest attack came Monday, when a powerful car bomb blast damaged a yacht club in Getxo, an affluent suburb of the Basque economic capital Bilbao.

The blast came on the eve of a Tuesday meeting between Basque premier Juan Jose Ibarretxe and Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, in which the Spanish leader once again rejected a Basque government sovereignty plan.

Last Wednesday a suspected ETA car bomb attack against a civil guard barracks in the Basque village of Legutiano killed one guard.

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