Arrested ETA cell had plans to kill top judge

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The Basque terrorist group members arrested Tuesday were plotting to murder High Court Judge, say sources.

25 July 2008

A highly-active ETA terrorist cell dismantled by police this week had been planning to assassinate High Court Judge Fernando Grande Marlaska, sources close to the investigation into the Basque terrorist group's Vizcaya cell revealed Thursday.

The 28-year-old leader of the cell, Arkaitz Goikoetxea, had crossed into Spain from France in February 2007, two months after ETA broke a ceasefire with a fatal bomb attack at Madrid's Barajas airport.

Among other targets assigned to him by ETA's leadership was Judge Marlaska, who owns a holiday home in Ezkaray, a village in La Rioja that is also home to the parents of Goikoetxea's girlfriend, herself considered an ETA accomplice.

Police uncovered two stockpiles of weapons and explosives near the town on Wednesday night and Thursday.

The first, located by a church, contained a gun, ammunition and tools to steal cars, while the second, in a field several kilometres from the village, reportedly contained around 100 kilograms of explosives and bomb-making materials.

The locations of the stockpiles were disclosed by Goikoetxea and other members of the nine-member Vizcaya cell during interrogations by police following their arrest in raids in the Basque Country, Galicia and Andalusia on Tuesday.

Besides planning to kill Marlaska, the group is also thought to have been preparing a large bomb attack in the Basque town of Getxo.

It was also thought possible that the cell was planning attacks in tourists resorts during the holiday season. Police seized maps of touristic southern Spanish cities such as Cadiz, Seville, Granada and Huelva, a general one of the Costa del Sol region, and a map of the Portuguese capital Lisbon.

One of the suspects was detained in the tourist resort of Fuengirola on the Costa del Sol. The previous weekend, ETA had planted four bombs in two northern holiday resorts, causing slight injuries to one person.

[El Pais / dpa / Expatica]

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