Ground-to-air missiles found in SW FranceETA arms caches

5th October 2004, Comments 0 comments

BAYONNE, France, Oct 5 (AFP) - Two ground-to-air missiles have been found in arms caches in southwest France uncovered in weekend raids against suspected members of Spain's armed Basque separatist group ETA, French officials said Tuesday.

BAYONNE, France, Oct 5 (AFP) - Two ground-to-air missiles have been found in arms caches in southwest France uncovered in weekend raids against suspected members of Spain's armed Basque separatist group ETA, French officials said Tuesday.  

One missile was 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.  

A police source said the other was discovered hidden in the village of Briscous, 30 kilometres (20 miles) away.  

In a separate statement, Spain's interior ministry said the missiles were "Russian-made, in perfect condition and ready for use."  

It added it was the first time in the history of ETA, which has campaigned for four decades for a separate northern Basque homeland, that such weapons had been found among ETA caches, adding they had been acquired in the past five years.  

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.  

Experts were said to be examining the missiles to determine where they were made and how they might have been acquired by ETA.  

The usually well-informed Basque news agency Vasco Press said the missiles were sold to ETA by "Irish traffickers"  

The Irish Republican Army (IRA), fighting for a united Ireland and for an end to British rule in Northern Ireland, and ETA are long thought to have been inter-connected.  

In October 1987, the French navy intercepted a vessel off the Basque found to be transporting arms, including similar missiles, destined for the IRA and bought in Libya and Lebanon.  

Vasco Press added the rockets were Sam-7 Strela missiles with a range of 4,500 metres (yards) and similar to those found in a cache uncovered at  a factory in Hendaye on the French side of the border in 1986.  

It said Spanish authorities had warned in 2001 that ETA has such weapons in its armoury.  

French officials said 11 of those still in detention were to be transferred later Tuesday to Paris, where they faced questioning before their appearance before an anti-terrorist judge likely on Thursday.  

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 an "historic" victory and both governments vowed to step up still further cooperation aimed at bringing about ETA's final demise.

© AFP

 

Subject: French News

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