Txeroki: ETA's most wanted figure arrested
Txeroki personifies the new radical young generation who leads the Basque separatist group.
MADRID - The suspected head of ETA's military operations arrested Monday in France personifies the radical young generation that has taken control of the armed Basque separatist organisation in recent years.
Known by the aliases "Txeroki" (Cherokee) or "El Indio" (The Indian), Miguel De Garikoitz Aspiazu Rubina was the most wanted ETA figure still at large, according to the French and Spanish authorities.
Born on 6 July 1973 in Bilbao, Miguel De Garikoitz Aspiazu Rubina is believed to have taken over ETA's military operations in late 2003 as the leader of a hardline wing that was hostile to dialogue with Madrid.
Spanish police suspect he has been connected to all the major operations carried out by the group in the last five years.
The only known photograph of him shows a young man with a thin face and a determined look, a three-day-old beard, long brown hair tied in a ponytail and a loop earring in his right ear.
When he was about 20 years old, Txeroki became involved in minor acts of urban violence staged by radical young ETA supporters in Spain's northern Basque Country and neighbouring Navarra province.
ETA has used organised violence, known in the Basque language as "kale borroka", to recruit new members.
He joined one of the notorious "Vizcaya" squads in the early part of this decade and was trained by the head of ETA commandos, Soledad Iparragirre Genetxea, known as "Anboto", who was arrested in France in October 2004.
Police believed the two first operations which the 35-year-old participated in ended in failure.
Police intercepted a van loaded with 500 kilograms of explosives two weeks before March 2004 general elections, and a plan to assassinate King Juan Carlos in the holiday island of Majorca the same year was never carried out.
Spanish authorities have linked him to an early morning bomb attack in the car park of Madrid airport in December 2006 that killed two Ecuadorans who were sleeping in their cars.
That attack, carried out in violation of ETA's "permanent ceasefire" led the Socialist government of Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero to end its controversial peace talks with the separatists.
Spanish media said the attack was the result of Txeroki's rising influence in the organisation. It said he used the ceasefire, announced in March 2006, to establish a "new ETA" with young recruits from the "kale borroka" and to revitalise its armed operations.
In June 2007, ETA announced the formal end of the ceasefire.
Txeroki is also suspected of involvement in the murder of two Spanish police officers in December 2007.
Spanish Interior Minister Alfredo Perez Rubalcaba said earlier this month that that two recently detained ETA suspects had claimed that Txeroki had participated in the shooting of the officers in France's southern Capbreton.
Spanish police believe Txeroki has in recent years lived in France, which ETA has typically used as a rearguard staging post for attacks across the border in Spain.
ETA is blamed for the deaths of 824 people in its 40-year campaign for an independent Basque homeland encompassing parts of southwestern France and northern Spain.
text: AFP / Olivier Thibault
Photo credit: curly_exp(l)osure