'IRA sold ETA missiles' seized in raids

5th October 2004, Comments 0 comments

6 October 2004, BAYONNE- Irish arms smugglers, possibly linked to the IRA, sold the Basque terrorist group ETA at least two surface-to-air missiles which were discovered in arms caches in the French countryside, it was reported Wednesday.

6 October 2004

BAYONNE- Irish arms smugglers, possibly linked to the IRA, sold the Basque terrorist group ETA at least two surface-to-air missiles which were discovered in arms caches in the French countryside, it was reported Wednesday.

The two Russian-made missiles, still in their cardboard boxes and with instructions attached, were discovered in ETA arsenals in two south-western French villages, Spain's interior ministry confirmed.

The missiles were reported to be lightweight, shoulder-launched Sam-7s with Strela launchers, though there was no official confirmation.

The missiles were sold to ETA from Ireland about four years ago, the Spanish daily La Vanguardia newspaper said, quoting anonymous anti-terrorist sources in the Basque region.

A letter in English explaining how to use the heat-seeking missiles, which are designed for attacking low-flying aircraft, was reportedly found in a raid on an ETA safe-house three years ago.

Some of Spain's major airports, especially those in the Basque country, put into place special protective measures to avoid ground-to-air attacks after security services became convinced ETA had missiles in its arsenal, according to reports.

The IRA is known to have bought Sam-7s from Libya in the 1980s and is believed to have still had several of them at the start of the arms decommissioning process.

British security forces began monitoring a suspected three-way link between the IRA, ETA, and the Colombian guerrillas Farc in 2000.

The missiles were discovered along with a large amount of explosive material in a house under construction in the town of Urrugne, near the Spanish border, the official said on condition of anonymity.

Seventeen people, including Mikel "Antza" Albizu Iriarte, ETA's political leader and chief theoretician, and his girlfriend, Soledad "Anboto" Iparragirre Genetxea, a suspected former military chief of the group, were arrested in the region Sunday in swoops by French anti-terrorist officers.

Spanish officials said they arrested another four suspects on their side of the border the same day.

Three of the suspects arrested in France were released Monday and the 14 others remain in custody, the French official said, adding that searches of the arms caches were continuing and would "take several days".

The official said experts were examining the missiles to determine where it was made and how it might have been acquired by ETA.

ETA has been waging a bloody campaign for an independent homeland in parts of northern Spain and southwestern France since 1959.

It has been blamed for the deaths of 817 people in that time, according to a toll published Monday by Spain's El Pais daily.

Both Spain and France hailed Sunday's raids against the group as a "historic" victory.

[Copyright EFE with Expatica]

Subject: Spanish news

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