The government in Madrid announced that police have arrested the most senior member of the armed Basque separatist organization ETA following a long surveillance operation in north-western France.
The ETA is blamed for more than 800 deaths
Ibon Gogeascoechea, the military chief of the Basque Homeland and Freedom organization, was picked up in the Lower Normandy region during a joint Spanish and French operation, the ministry said in a statement issued on Sunday, February 28.
The 53-year old had been on the run since 1997 and was wanted for a plot to attack the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao during a visit by the Spanish king.
Police also arrested two other people, one of whom was suspected of involvement in the 2008 assassinations of a Spanish socialist parliamentarian and a businessman, the ministry said.
Gogeascoechea was caputred in France
Gogeascoechea and his accomplices were apprehended in a car with fake license plates after arousing suspicion by renting a rural house using assumed identities.
The ETA is considered a terrorist organization by the European Union and United States and is blamed for over 800 deaths during its 41-year armed struggle for independence for the Basque region of northern Spain and southwest France.
The militant nationalist organization has been severely weakened by arrests in recent years. This year, 26 ETA suspects have been captured in France, Spain and Portugal.
Editor: Toma Tasovac