Detained ETA suspects believed to order killings
Spain's interior minister said he believes the four suspected leaders of ETA detained in France are responsible for recent killings carried out by the group.22 May 2008
MADRID - Spain's interior minister said on Wednesday that he believes four suspected leaders of ETA detained in France overnight are responsible for recent killings carried out by the group.
"If you ask me if I believe that those who were detained overnight are behind or ordered the last assassinations by the terrorist group, I would say that I think so," Interior Minister Alfredo Perez Rubalcaba told a news conference.
ETA's presumed leader, Javier Lopez Pena, alias "Thierry," was detained along with three other suspected members of the group in a police swoop on an apartment in the French city of Bordeaux just before midnight Tuesday.
The group is blamed for six deaths since it broke a ceasefire in December 2006 with a bombing of a car park at Madrid's international airport that killed two Ecuadoran men.
In December 2007, two Spanish civil guards were also killed by an ETA team in southwestern France, where they were on an intelligence-gathering mission.
A former town councillor was shot dead in the Basque region on 9 March, just two days before a general election, and last week a car bomb exploded outside a police barracks, killing one guard and injuring four others.
ETA announced a "permanent ceasefire" in March 2006 but formally called it off in June 2007 citing frustration with the lack of concessions on the part of the government in their tentative peace process.
The group is blamed for the deaths of 823 people in its 40-year campaign for an independent Basque nation.
Rubalcaba warned that while the arrests in France were significant, they "were not the end of ETA".
"Experience has shown us that ETA's operational plans continue independently of the detentions that are carried out, no matter how important the detentions are, and these detentions were very important," he said.
Two more people were arrested Wednesday, one in Spain and a French citizen in France who was linked to the Bordeaux apartment.
ETA, whose initials stand for Euskadi ta Askatasuna, or Basque Homeland and Freedom in the Basque language, is considered a terrorist organisation by the European Union and the United States.
[AFP / Expatica]