Top ETA suspect held in France

5th December 2003, Comments 0 comments

BAYONNE, France, Dec 4 (AFP) - A suspected senior member of the armed Basque separatist movement ETA was arrested in southwest France on Thursday, one year after he escaped from police custody, police said.

BAYONNE, France, Dec 4 (AFP) - A suspected senior member of the armed Basque separatist movement ETA was arrested in southwest France on Thursday, one year after he escaped from police custody, police said.

They said Ivon Fernandez Iradi was arrested as he was about to get into a car along with another man, who was not identified, in the town of Mont-de-Marson. The two, who were armed, did not resist arrest.

Police then took them to their apartment, where they also arrested a woman, whose identity was not revealed, and seized weapons, documents and a computer.Fernandez Iradi had been sought by police since he escaped from custody in the southwestern city of Bayonne on December 22 last year by squeezing out through his cell's skylight window.

Thursday's arrests, by anti-terrorist police backed by local officers, followed surveillance of a group of suspects with links to ETA.

But police said they only identified the three persons held after they were arrested. They were remanded in custody in Mont-de-Marsan, amid tight security to avoid the possibility of a new escape.

The escape by Fernandez Iradi last year led Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy to order the suspension of five officers from the Bayonne police station.

Spanish anti-terrorist police said at the time of Fernandez Iradi's initial arrest - three days before his escape - that they suspected he was ETA's logistics chief for commando operations.

He was to have been transferred to Paris with seven other alleged ETA members and put under the charge of a special French anti-terrorist brigade in the capital.

Fernandez Iradi, also known under the alias "Susper", is accused of being a member of ETA's so-called "Buruntza" or "Donosti" cell and of seriously wounding a French police officer in November 2001.

Anti-terrorist authorities have blamed the Donosti commando group for an abortive attack in January 2001 against Spain's ruling Popular Party.

ETA's armed campaign for a separate homeland in northern Spain and southwestern France has left an estimated 800 people dead over the past three decades.

© AFP

Subject: French news

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