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Four ETA suspects arrested in France

Published on 11/02/2004

BORDEAUX, France, Feb 11 (AFP) - French police said Wednesday they had arrested four suspected members of Spain's separatist Basque group ETA, including two men that Spanish officials considered to be senior ETA logistics operatives.

Two of the suspects were apprehended in an apartment in Limoges, western France, early Wednesday.

They were located thanks to information gleaned from the arrest Monday of two armed ETA suspects who tried to drive through a customs roadblock in the nearby town of Oriolles, police said.

The Spanish interior ministry said one of the men arrested Monday was 46-year-old Luis Enrique Garate Galarza, a longtime ETA member who had been active in the banned organization since returning from Mexico, where he had been holed up since the late 1980s.

Garate was believed to have been involved in the murder of five Spanish soldiers and police in the mid-1980s and the abduction of a Spanish magnate in 1986.

The ministry identified the second man arrested Monday as 27-year-old Ibon Elorrieta Sanz, who had already been tried in absentia by a French court on charges of belonging to a terrorist organization and sentenced to five years in prison.

Both were considered high-ranking members of ETA’s logistics arm and both were armed with pistols when they were arrested. In the stolen van they were driving, officers found explosives, detonators, grenades, two grenade launchers, a machine gun and ammunition.

The two men arrested in Limoges Wednesday had papers identifying them as Jon Kepa Preciado and Gonzales Gonzales Jon, both aged 29 and both of Spanish nationality. French police said they were verifying the documents.

ETA, which has been waging an armed struggle for an independent Basque homeland comprising parts of northern Spain and southwestern France, has been blamed for the killings of more than 800 people over the past 35 years.

France has cooperated closely with Spain in capturing suspected ETA members and has been responsible for the arrests of several alleged leaders of the organisation.


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