Spain police crack ETA's "most active" cell

23rd July 2008, Comments 0 comments

Nine people suspected to be responsible for the May car bombing that killed a Civil Guard were arrested in pre-dawn raids.

23 July 2008

MADRID - Civil guards on Tuesday dismantled one of ETA's "most active" terrorist cells, arresting nine people in pre-dawn raids in the Basque Country, Galicia and Andalusia, the Interior Ministry said.

The so-called Vizcaya cell is believed to have been behind most of the attacks carried out by the Basque terrorist group since it formally ended a ceasefire in June 2006, including a car bombing of a Civil Guard barracks in May that killed one officer and injured four other people.

"We can't say this is the only ETA unit, but it was the most active, most dynamic and the most wanted one since the end of the ceasefire," Interior Minister Alfredo Pérez Rubalcaba told reporters.

The cell was allegedly led by Arkaitz Goikoetxea, who was arrested along with two women at an apartment in Bilbao. Goikoetxea, who is known to police from his role in street violence campaigns in the Basque Country between 1995 and 2005, is thought to have overseen the restructuring of the Vizcaya cell since 2006, planning its attacks and possibly even choosing its targets.

In an eight-hour search of the Bilbao apartment, police uncovered a detonator, three false Civil Guard ID cards as well as maps of Portugal and the Costa del Sol.
Other raids took place on properties in the Basque towns of Getxo and Elorrio, as well as in Pontevedra, Galicia, and in the Costa del Sol resort of Fuengirola.

Rubalcaba said that Sunday's series of bomb attacks at resorts on Spain's north coast had given investigators the evidence they needed to go after Goikoetxea and the other eight cell members apparently under his command.

The interior minister noted that the Vizcaya cell had been behind ETA's "most important" recent attacks, and did not rule out the possibility that one of its members may have carried out the assassination of a former Socialist councillor in Mondragón in the run-up to the general election in March.

"We have found two guns, but at the moment there is no link," Rubalcaba said.

Since the end of the ceasefire, 306 ETA members have been arrested, including the group's alleged commander, Francisco Javier López Peña.

[El Pais / Expatica]

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