ETA recruitment chief arrested
17 June 2004
BORDEAUX – Police arrested the suspected recruiter and trainer of new members for the French unit of the Basque terrorist group ETA, the French Interior Ministry said Thursday.
Iñaki Lopez de Bergara Astola was among eight suspected terrorists detained in three cities in western and central France.
Lopez de Bergara is suspected of being the person “responsible for the reserve, recruitment and training” of the group in France, a ministry spokesman said.
He was deported to Spain in 1998 after having completed a six-year prison sentence in France.
French Interior Minister Dominique de Villepin phoned his Spanish counterpart, Jose Antonio Alonso, on Thursday morning to inform him of the operation.
Villepin is “very happy with French-Spanish cooperation in the fight against terrorism,” the spokesman said.
For his part, Alonso said the arrests have “great importance”.
Other sources identified five of the eight detainees as Aitziber Coello Onaindia, Armando Zabalo Bilbao, Asier Aguinaco Etxenagusia, Juan Carlos Estevez Paz and Benito Fermin Martinez Bergara.
Estevez Paz was convicted in France for his involvement in the 1995 failed assassination attempt against Spanish King Juan Carlos.
French authorities had an arrest warrant out for Martinez Bergara, known by the alias “Demonio” (Devil) and purportedly a prominent member of ETA’s French unit, for his alleged involvement in the theft of more than eight tonnes of dynamite by an ETA cell in the northwestern French town of Plevin in September 1999.
Breton separatists were allegedly involved in the ETA operation to steal the explosives.
The suspects were picked up in the central town of Limoges and in Angers and Le Mans, in western France.
[Copyright EFE with Expatica]
Subject: Spanish news