Wanted ETA member arrested in Belgium
Belgian police arrested on Saturday a suspected member of the armed Basque separatist group ETA at a hotel on Belgium's coast, after a tip-off from Spanish police, officials said.
Police arrested Luis Maria Zengotitabengoa, 29, early Saturday morning in the coastal city of Oostende, after Spanish authorities intercepted telephone calls he made from Belgium, Bernard Michel of the federal prosecutor's terrorism section told AFP.
Michel said the ETA suspect was preparing to flee to Britain.
Zengotitabengoa, originally from Durango in the Basque country, was wanted on a European arrest warrant for "his links to an operation attempting to transport ETA's explosives into Portugal," Spain's interior ministry statement said.
He is accused of helping to rent a minivan packed with explosives, which was intercepted during a routine check on January 9 in Bermillio de Sayago, in the western region of Zamora.
He is also suspected of having links with an apartment in Obidos, north of Lisbon where police last February found explosives and nearly 1.5 tonnes of equipment for a potential attack.
"The civil guard suspects that (Zengotitabengoa), who figures amongst the most wanted suspected ETA members, is actually part of a 'reserve commando' in the organisation," the ministry statement said.
His arrest brings to 67 the number of suspected ETA members and collaborators stopped by police this year across Europe.
ETA is considered a terrorist organisation by the European Union and United States and is held responsible for 829 people who have died in more than 40 years of violence for the independence of the Basque country.
The clandestine organisation has not committed an attack since August 2009.
According to Spain's El Pais newspaper, an absence in ETA attacks has resulted in a record year for tourism -- which counts for 10 percent of Spain's GDP -- with an 11.8 percent increase for the month of July compared with the previous year.
In total, 257,133 people stayed in hotels or rural tourist establishments this July, according to El Pais.
"I think that some time ago, when people decided to go to the Basque country, they thought twice because of terrorism. But now things have changed," said Enzo, an Italian tourist in San Sebastian, in the newspaper.
Specialists in the Basque independence struggle are waiting for an official ETA truce after alliance was formed between illegal Basque group Batasuna and the non-violent separatist group Eusko Alkartasuna, ahead of 2011 municipal elections.
© 2010 AFP