Police detain ETA suspects of fatal shootings

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Man and woman arrested just hours before second victim dies in hospital.

6 December 2007

MADRID - French police have arrested two suspected ETA members believed to have been involved in the murder of two undercover Spanish police officers on Saturday in the southwestern French town of Capbreton, Spanish authorities said Wednesday.

The suspects, identified as Asier Bengoa López Lozère and Amaia Alonso, were arrested yesterday morning at a bus stop close to a hotel where they had spent the night in Chateauneuf de Randon, around 600 kilometres east of where the killings took place.

The arrests came just hours before doctors confirmed the death of Fernando Trapero, a 23-year-old Civil Guard officer who had been in a coma since the shooting. His partner, 24-year-old Raúl Centeno, died instantly in the attack, which witnesses said had been perpetrated by two men and a woman.

The murders were the first killings in France by ETA since 1976. "These people in custody in France were probably behind the killings," Spanish Prime Minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero said yesterday during a visit to Italy. "I am convinced that their guilt, and that of the third person who participated in the attack, will be proven."

Bengoa was previously arrested in Spain in 2003 as part of an operation into ETA's support infrastructure, in which 26 other people were arrested.

He was released from pre-trial custody in November last year, just 10 days before the High Court sentenced him to seven years in prison for aiding a terrorist organisation, and has been a fugitive ever since. Alonso has no prior criminal record. Both were armed at the time of their arrest, but did not resist police and gave their true identities. Investigators have yet to identify the third suspect in Saturday's shooting.

"These are the suspects in the double homicide, they fit the descriptions we were given," French gendarme spokesman Bruno Roguiez said.

With police on their trail, Bengoa and Alonso apparently travelled more than a thousand kilometres through southern France over three days using stolen vehicles, taxis, buses and by hitchhiking.

Meanwhile, after a brief show of unity among Spanish political parties against ETA in the wake of the shooting, Spain's main opposition Popular Party lashed out at the Socialist government once more yesterday over its counterterrorism policies.

PP Secretary General Ángel Acebes asked why Zapatero had failed to attend a protest against the Basque terrorist group in Madrid on Tuesday and demanded the government revoke a 2005 congressional motion that granted it authorisation to enter into peace negotiations with ETA.

[Copyright EL PAÍS, SL./ Ángeles Espinosa 2007]

Subject: Spanish news