Key ETA figure arrested in France | Europe| News and current affairs from around the continent | DW | 11.04.2009
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Key ETA figure arrested in France

A leading member of the militant Basque separatist group Eta has been captured at Paris' Montparnasse train station. The Spanish interior ministry in Madrid has called it a very important arrest.

A Spanish policeman in front of ETA grafitti

The name of the violent separatist group stands for Basque Homeland and Freedom

Ekaitz Sirvent Auzmendi, who is reportedly the No. 2 member of the group's logistical operations, was carrying a handgun when he was apprehended by police. French police say Auzmendi was seized after he got off a high-speed train from Bordeaux. He'd been under police surveillance during the train journey.

Spain's interior ministry said in a statement that a laptop and a large quantity of computer-equipment including USB sticks and hard discs were seized during the arrest. He was also carrying false French and Spanish identity papers at the time.

Key ETA figure

On the run since 2002, Auzmendi is believed to be a key figure in ETA's logistical operations and one of the group's five top leaders. Spanish investigators suspect forging documents was part of his duties for the banned separatist group.

ETA is listed as a terrorist organization by both the European Union and the United States.

French forensic police officers placing a blue canvas cover over a police car

In 2007 a Spanish civil guard was shot and killed in a clash with ETA members in southwest France

It's assumed responsibility for a number of attacks since mid 2007, when a 15 month truce was broken following a deadlock in peace talks. Around 30 attacks have claimed six lives since then.

ETA has been blamed for 825 deaths though during its 40-year struggle for an independent Basque homeland on territory straddling the Franco-Spanish border in the western Pyrenees.

Further arrests

Last Sunday, French police seized a huge cache of bomb-making materials believed to have belonged to ETA in the southeastern city of Grenoble -- far from the Basque separatists' usual zone of operations.

Police say at least 300 kilograms of ammonium nitrate and powdered aluminium -- a powerful explosive -- was found by chance in a rented basement lock-up in Grenoble.

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