Police deals blow to ETA-linked Basque youth group
San Sebastian – Spanish police "decapitated" an outlawed youth group linked to the armed Basque separatist group ETA with the arrest Tuesday of 34 of its members, the interior ministry said.
The arrests were made following searches in 67 properties in the Basque region and the neighbouring province of Navarre, which is partially Basque-speaking, that involved 650 police officers, it said in a statement.
It is the biggest strike against Segi since Spain’s Supreme Court in 2007 declared it to be a terrorist group due to its ties to ETA, which is blamed for over 800 deaths in a 41-year campaign for independence in the Basque region of northern Spain and southwestern France.
Authorities blame Segi members for street violence in the Basque region such as torching bank machines, burning buses and throwing Molotov cocktails. The youth group is considered to be ETA’s main source of recruitment.
The operation was carried out under the supervision of a top investigating judge and its aim was to stop the youth group from going ahead with its plans to recruit new members.
"Today’s police operation has decapitated the leadership structure of Segi and is a strong blow to its financing and logistics," the interior ministry said in a statement.
All of those detained had taken part in Segi events and some of them may have carried out acts of street violence, the ministry said.
The Basque independence party Batasuna condemned the arrests and said they would only strengthen Basque resolve.
"We are talking about a raid that aims to criminalise Basque youth and paralyse the dynamism of the independence movement," the party said in a statement released in Bayonne, south-west France.
Batasuna is banned in Spain because of suspected links to ETA, but not in France.
"The fascist Spanish state is mistaken if it thinks it can crush this dynamism by repression. On the contrary, this will only reinforce the Basque desire for self-determination," the statement said.
Police seized gasoline, bottles and other materials needed to make Molotov cocktails during the raids, as well as instructions for how to make the incendiary devices as part of their operation.
They also seized several copies of ETA’s internal newsletter Zutabe and other propaganda belonging to the armed group as well as envelopes containing EUR 6,000 in cash.
The street violence carried out by Segi has become a symbol of underground support for ETA, which figures on several terrorist blacklists, including those of the European Union and the United States.
In mid-2007, ETA called off a 15-month-old ceasefire following a deadlock in tentative peace talks with the Spanish government.
Since then Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero’s Socialist government has taken a hard line, repeatedly ruling out new negotiations while operations by Spanish and French police have weakened ETA’s leadership.
The last deaths claimed by ETA were those of two police officers who were killed in a car bombing on 30 July on the holiday island of Majorca in the Mediterranean.
Radical Basque separatist parties draw support from approximately 10 percent of Spain’s Basque voters.
AFP / Expatica