Suspected ETA military chief arrested in France

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Spanish police sources say the military head of the Basque separatist group was arrested in south-western France overnight.

17 November 2008

MADRID - The alleged military head of the Basque separatist group ETA was arrested in south-western France overnight, Spanish police sources said Monday.

Mikel Garikoitz Aspiazu Rubina, known by his alias Txeroki, was held at 3:30 am with a woman at Cauterets ski resort near Lourdes in the Pyrenees in a coordinated operation between French and Spanish security forces.

The suspects were asleep when police broke into their flat. Both were armed, reported the Spanish media.

Txeroki, 35, has been the reputed head of ETA military operations for the past five years, and was responsible for ordering and planning bomb attacks.

The woman is believed to be Leire Lopez Zurutuza, who is suspected of participating in several attacks.

Police searched the flat, which had reportedly been rented a week earlier, in the presence of the suspects.

An ETA hardliner, Txeroki is suspected of torpedoing the peace talks by ordering the 30 December 2006 bombing of a Madrid airport car park that killed two people.

Vasco Press said Txeroki has been the reputed head of ETA military operations for the past five years, and as such was responsible for ordering and planning its bomb attacks.

Born in the Basque city of Bilbao, Txeroki first joined radical separatist youths who commit acts of street violence. He is believed to have joined ETA in 2000, participating in several attacks including one that killed a judge in 2001.

Txeroki is also suspected of personally shooting dead two Spanish policemen in Capbreton, southern France, in December 2007.

Txeroki's arrest followed that of another top-level ETA leader, Francisco Javier Lopez Pena, in France six months earlier.

Last week, French police detained two suspected members of ETA during a routine police check as they were cycling near Tarascon-sur-Ariege in the south of France.

ETA, which has killed over 820 people in its 40-year campaign for an independent Basque homeland, has been listed as a terrorist organisation by the European Union and the United States.

[dpa / AFP / Expatica]

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