Suspected ETA chief to face charges in France

24th May 2010, Comments 0 comments

The suspected military chief of the Basque militant group ETA is to appear before a French magistrate Monday to face terrorism charges, prosecutors said.

Mikel Karrera Sarobe, described by the Spanish government as ETA's supreme leader and military chief, was arrested on Thursday by French police who stormed a residential block in Bayonne, southwest France.

The 37-year-old Sarobe was picked up along with two alleged accomplices, one of whom was described as his right-hand man, Arkaitz Aguirregabiria del Barrio, and a female militant.

He would be the fifth ETA military chief to be arrested in just two years as France and Spain have stepped up joint operations to root out the armed Basque separatist group.

Paris prosecutors said a formal investigation had been opened targeting the three ETA suspects and a fourth man, arrested in Urrugne, southwest France.

DNA samples taken from Sarobe match those collected from the scene of a December 2007 murder of two Spanish police officers in Capbreton, southwest France, prosecutors said.

Sarobe may face charges in connection with that murder, they said.

For the past four decades ETA has been fighting a bloody campaign for an independent Basque homeland carved out from northern Spain and southwest France.

It is listed as a banned terrorist group by the European Union and has been held responsible for the deaths of 829 people during its on-again off-again campaign of gun and bomb attacks on mainly Spanish targets.

Traditionally, ETA used France as a safe rear-base for attacks on Spain, but in recent years the two EU allies have strengthened cross-border police cooperation and cracked down hard on the group.

President Nicolas Sarkozy vowed to "eradicate" the Basque group from France after a French policeman's murder in a Paris suburb in March was blamed on an ETA member.

© 2010 AFP

0 Comments To This Article