Two suspected ETA members detained in France

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Two members suspected to belong to Basque terrorist group have been arrested during a police road check near Dijon.

28 July 2008

PARIS - The Basque separatist group ETA suffered a new blow Friday with the arrest in France of two of its members, including one described by the French interior minister as a senior military commander.

The two, a man and a woman, were arrested during a police road check near Dijon, police said.
It followed a hit-and-run accident involving a stolen car that the suspects were travelling in, French police spokesman Pierre Bouquin told AFP.

The arrests took place without violence although a weapon was subsequently found in the car, a police source said.

French Interior Minister Michele Alliot-Marie confirmed the arrests and named the man as Asier Eceiza Ayerra, one of six ETA suspects featured on wanted posters distributed at the beginning of the year.

Alliot-Marie said he was a senior official in ETA's military leadership.

Spain's RNE radio said Ayerra was believed to be the deputy of Txeroki, the head of ETA's military command.

Spanish police suspect Ayerra planned a July 2003 attack that left 13 injured in hotels in Benidorm and Alicante in southern Spain. He has been on the run since 2002, according to RNE.

Alliot-Marie expressed her satisfaction at the arrests and praised the police officers involved.

The minister did not give details of the woman arrested. Spanish media identified her as Olga Gomez Arambilez, a suspected member of a recently dismantled ETA cell.

Meanwhile police found another weapons cache belonging to ETA in northern Spain on Friday, a source close to the investigation said, making it the third such find this week.

The cache was found in Getxo, a suburb of the Basque financial capital Bilbao, the source told AFP. She could not confirm media reports that it contained 30 kilograms of explosives, detonators and tools.

Police on Thursday found over 100 kilograms of explosives, as well as several detonators and French and Portuguese licence plates, in a cache belonging to the group in a forest near the northern town of Santo Domingo de la Calzada in the province of La Rioja.

A day earlier police found a cache containing an automatic rifle, tools to steal cars and a box of tranquilisers in the nearby ski resort of Valdezcaray.

The discovery of the weapons follows the arrest Tuesday of nine suspected members of ETA's Vizcaya cell, including its leader Arkaitz Goikoetxea.

Police on Thursday detained a 10th person suspected of belonging to the cell in Getxo.

The Vizcaya cell was planning to stage a major attack in Getxo and kidnap a Basque politician belonging to Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero's Socialist Party, according to Spanish media reports.

ETA is blamed for the deaths of 823 people in its 40-year campaign of bombings and shootings to carve a Basque homeland out of northern Spain and southwestern France.

[AFP / Expatica]

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