Former ETA leader arrested in Spain

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Police in Spain's northern Basque region Wednesday arrested an ex-leader of the armed Basque separatist group ETA, a court spokesman said.

Ignacio Gracia Arregi was detained in the town of Renteria, close to the French border, on a judge's order for his suspected kidnapping of a prison officer, the spokesman said.

The officer, Jose Antonio Ortega Lara, was kidnapped in January 1996 and freed by police some 18 months later.

The spokesman said the judge had "new information about (Arregi's) links to the kidnapping."

ETA, classed as a terrorist group by the Eureopan Union, is blamed for 829 deaths during a four-decade campaign of shootings and bombings for an independent Basque homeland in northern Spain and southern France.

On January 10, ETA announced a permanent, verifiable ceasefire. But Spain's government rejected the offer, demanding the group go further and disband entirely.

Considered to be severely weakened by the arrests of a number of top leaders in recent years, ETA has not carried out an attack on Spanish soil since August 2009.

Arregi, who is also known as "Inaki of Renteria", was extradited to Spain from France in 2008 for the crime of belonging to a terrorist organisation. He was released in April 2010.

Spanish authorities also want to question him about an ETA order to assassinate against King Juan Carlos in the island of Majorca in 1995.

The court spokesman said Arregi would be transfered to Madrid on Thursday to be questioned by a National Court judge.

© 2011 AFP

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