ETA hiding ‘tonne of dynamite in France’
MADRID, Feb 9 (AFP) - The armed Basque separatist group ETA has stashed a tonne of stolen dynamite in France as well as an arsenal of weapons bought in eastern Europe, the Spanish daily El Pais on Monday quoted anti-terrorist officials as saying.
ETA is also experiencing what the sources termed “an unprecedented crisis” in its ranks with 696 of its members languishing in Spanish and French prisons after months of ramped up cooperation between the police forces of both nations.
But according to anti-terrorist sources the economic clout of the group, which has killed 816 people in a 35-year campaign for an independent homeland in northwestern Spain, remains largely intact thanks to demands for a “revolutionary tax” from Basque firms and individuals.
Many firms in the region accede to demands to pay extortion money as protection against attacks on their offices and personnel.
According to El Pais, the dynamite estimate is based on what police have discovered in a series of raids since ETA stole quantities of explosives from a depot in Brittany, eastern France, in September 1999 and from a depot near Grenoble in southeastern France in March 2001.
Police raids in recent years have turned up documentary evidence of arms purchases in eastern Europe over the past six years.
The anti-terrorist sources said, however, that ETA lives in constant fear of infiltration by the police, who have made a series of high-profile arrests in recent months, prompting the Madrid government to suggest the organisation may be critically wounded.
“They feel they are being infiltrated,” a high-ranking official told El Pais.
But he added: “ETA is going to carry on killing and any declaration of a truce will only be another instrument of their struggle.”
ETA broke their last truce, lasting 16 months from September 1998, in January 2000.
Last week ETA warned the tourism sector, Spain’s main foreign currency earner, that it would strike year-round in tourist areas, having last summer injured more than a dozen people in attacks on popular east coast resorts.
Subject: France news