Guns, computers found in arrested ETA chief's car

10th December 2008, Comments 0 comments

Spanish interior minister said guns and computer equipment were found in the suspected new ETA chief’s car.

MADRID – Police discovered guns and computer equipment in a car used by the suspected new military chief of the Basque separatist group ETA when he was arrested in France, Spain's interior minister said Tuesday.

"There were a lot of things in the car" used by Aitzol Iriondo Yarza and fellow ETA suspect Eneko Zarrabeitia, the minister, Alfredo Perez Rubalcaba, said.

"There were three guns, computer information, computers, USB keys, diaries, electronic equipment, two backpacks," he told journalists during a visit to the southern city of Granada.

Police seized Iriondo, known under the nom de guerre Gurbitz, on Monday evening in the village of Gerde in southwestern France along with Zarrabeitia and another ETA suspect, Aitor Artetxe.

Spanish authorities believe Iriondo replaced Miguel de Garikoitz Aspiazu Rubina, known as Txeroki as head of ETA's military wing. Txeroki was arrested in France on 17 November.

"The success of the security forces not only strikes the organization where it counts, it also gives credibility to the objective of ending ETA. It can act from time to time but it can't reorganise forever," centre-right daily El Mundo wrote in its editorial.

Rubalcaba however warned that ETA would seek to strike again just as they did last week with the fatal shooting of a Basque businessman in an attack seen as revenge for the arrest of Txeroki.

"I am sure ETA is preparing to carry out a criminal act. They're still there. This is not finished," he said.

Spanish authorities had issued five separate arrest warrants for Gurbitz, who police suspect participated in the fatal shooting of two Spanish police officers in France in December 2007.

Police believe the 30-year-old has been part of an active ETA cell since July 2007 and was involved in preparing car bomb attacks in Spain with vehicles which were stolen and loaded with explosives in France.

ETA called off its latest ceasefire in June 2007, saying it had grown frustrated by the lack of concessions in its tentative peace talks with the Madrid government.

Gurbitz is also wanted in connection with the assassination in 2001 of a municipal councillor in Lasarte, near the Basque coastal city of San Sebastian, and for participating in the failed attempt to set off a car bomb outside a defence ministry building in Logrono in 2007, a judicial source said.

He is also wanted for "membership in a terrorist organisation, holding explosives and document falsification" for his alleged membership in two ETA cells which were active in 2001, the source added.

Police also believe he was involved in the transportation in 2007 of a load of explosives which were found in Spain.

Shortly after Gurbitz was detained, three more suspects were picked up at a highway toll booth near Irun, in northern Spain near the French border.

Rubalcaba declined to identify the three people arrested near Irun, saying that operation was still "ongoing".

The Basque news agency, Vasco Press, said the three held in Irun had earlier been spotted bringing Aitor Artetxe to Gerde for a meeting with Iriondo and Zarrabeitia.

They were picked up just after they crossed the border late Monday.

ETA, considered a terrorist organisation by the European Union and the United States, is blamed for the deaths of over 800 people in its 40-year campaign of bombings and shootings to carve a Basque homeland out of parts of northern Spain and southwestern France.

[AFP / Expatica]


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