Three ETA suspects held in Basque Country: government

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Police in Spain's northern Basque region Wednesday arrested three suspected members of the armed separatist organisation ETA, the country's interior ministry said.

"Three people were arrested in an operation in Villabona," a town in the Basque Country, a ministry spokeswoman said.

The three were part of an ETA commando cell that was hitherto unknown to the police.

"The operation is continuing and searches have been carried out," the spokeswoman said.

Spanish media said the operation was the result of information provided by an ETA member arrested last February, Ibai Beobide.

It said that among those held on Wednesday was Javier Atristain Gorosabel, who had fled to France after Beobide's arrest.

The operation comes some 24 hours after the arrests of seven suspected members of ETA's international arm, Askapena.

ETA is blamed for 829 deaths in more than 40 years of fighting for an independent Basque homeland in northern Spain and southwestern France.

The Spanish government has vowed to eradicate ETA unless it unilaterally and unconditionally renounces violence and disarms.

It has rejected a series of ETA statements in past weeks offering a ceasefire in the right conditions.

The government believes its campaign against ETA, with dozens of arrests made in cooperation with forces in other countries, particularly France, has seriously weakened ETA's operational capacity.

© 2010 AFP

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