Suspected ETA leader arrested in Paris

11th April 2009, Comments 0 comments

A top member of the Basque separatist group ETA was carrying a Magnum handgun and false papers when he was arrested in Paris.

PARIS – French police said Friday they had detained a top member of the Basque separatist group, ETA, who was carrying a Magnum handgun and false papers when arrested in Paris.

Ekaitz Sirvent Auzmendi was seized after he got off a high-speed train from Bordeaux in Paris, said police.

Auzmendi is believed to be ETA's number two on the logistics side and one of the movement's five top leaders, said Spanish media, citing Spanish anti-terrorist sources.

On the run since 2002, Auzmendi had been under police surveillance during his rail journey from Bordeaux, in southwest France. Spanish police were present during the arrest, police said.

Spain's interior ministry said in a statement that a laptop computer and a large quantity of computer-equipment including USB keys and hard discs were seized during the arrest.

Auzmendi had also been carrying false French and Spanish identity papers, said the statement.

Spanish investigators believed forging documents was part of his duties for the banned separatist group, said the ministry.

The Spanish daily El Mundo said the arrest was the most important blow against ETA's leadership carried out this year.

On Sunday, French police seized a huge cache of bomb-making materials suspected of belonging to ETA in southeastern city of Grenoble, far from the Basque separatists' usual zone of operations.

At least 300 kilogrammes of ammonium nitrate and powdered aluminium – a powerful explosive was found by chance in a rented basement lock-up in Grenoble, police said.

On 30 March, a Paris court sentenced Ainhoa Garcia Montero, a Spanish woman found guilty of running a French-based cell that identified targets for ETA, to 14 years in jail.

ETA is listed as a terrorist organisation by the European Union and the United States.

The group resumed attacks in mid-2007 after a 15-month truce following a deadlock in peace talks with Madrid. Since then, it has staged about 30 attacks and killed six people in Spain.

It has been blamed for 825 deaths in its 40-year struggle for an independent Basque homeland on territory straddling the Franco-Spanish border in the western Pyrenees.

AFP / Expatica

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