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Alleged ETA military chief arrested in French police raid

French police have arrested ETA's alleged military chief in an overnight raid. The Basque separatist group has come under pressure from Spanish and French authorities recently despite a unilaterally declared ceasefire.

Masked ETA members

ETA members try to keep their identities secret

The man believed to be the military chief of the Basque separatist group ETA was arrested by French police late on Thursday, Spanish national radio reported.

French police arrested Alejandro Zobaran Arriola and three other suspected ETA members during an overnight raid in a house near the Belgian border. Documents and firearms were also seized during the operation. If the Spanish radio report is confirmed, it would make Arriola the sixth ETA leader arrested since 2008.

Early in the week, Spanish police prevented two major ETA plots from being carried out. The plots sought to blow up Madrid's “twin towers” and assassinate the Basque prime minister. That came after police broke up a suspected ETA cell in the Basque region the week prior, seizing 200 kilograms of bomb-making material.

Ceasefire rejected

On January 10, ETA announced that a unilateral ceasefire that the group had originally declared in September 2010 would become permanent.

But Spanish Prime Minister Luis Rodriguez Zapatero rejected the ceasefire outright, saying he seeks nothing less than the group's dissolution. Authorities subsequently launched a campaign to root out ETA, arresting 33 suspected members.

ETA traditionally uses France as a staging area for attacks. However, increased cooperation between French and Spanish authorities has put the terrorist group under increased pressure as of late.

The terrorist group has killed 829 people since launching its campaign for an independent Basque homeland in northern Spain and southwest France 40 years ago. The Basques are an ethnic group that speaks a language unrelated to any other in Europe.

Author: Spencer Kimball (AFP, dpa)
Editor: Chuck Penfold

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