Suspected ETA chief placed in custody

12th December 2003, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, Dec 12 (AFP) - France on Thursday placed under formal investigation a man believed to be a senior military leader of Spain's Basque separatist group ETA, along with three other suspects, judicial officials said.

PARIS, Dec 12 (AFP) - France on Thursday placed under formal investigation a man believed to be a senior military leader of Spain's Basque separatist group ETA, along with three other suspects, judicial officials said.

Gorka Palacios Alday, 29, had been arrested along with his lieutenant and two other suspected ETA members in a dawn raid on a house in Lons, in southwestern France on Tuesday.

The legal probe will focus on a possible violation of French law covering the possession of weapons, explosives, false official documents and receipt of stolen goods as part of a terrorist group.

Palacios figures on lists of wanted "terrorists" in Spain, the European Union and the United States.

He is notably suspected of involvement in the murders of a Spanish colonel and a local councillor in 2000.

The four men were to appear before a judge overnight Thursday.

Two other suspects, Inigo Vallejo Franco, 26, believed to be Palacios's lieutenant, and Jon Rubenach Roig, allegedly in charge of training ETA recruits, as well as Jose Miguel Almandos Evriti, considered by investigators to be only small fry, were also put under legal investigation and remanded in custody.

Spain's Interior Minister Angel Acebes has hailed the arrests, saying the Basque group was now largely "dismantled".

According to French Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy, 47 people with ETA links have been arrested in France this year.

The Lons raid came five days after French police recaptured the suspected chief of the ETA, Ibon "Susper" Fernandez Iradi, 32, in the nearby Landes region 11 months after he escaped from a holding cell in Bayonne, on France's southwestern Atlantic coast.

ETA's armed campaign for an independent Basque homeland comprising parts of northern Spain and southwestern France has left an estimated 800 people dead over the past three decades.

 © AFP

                                                                Subject: France news

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