French police have arrested the suspected military chief and deputy chief of the militant Basque separatist group ETA. The group is blamed for hundreds of killings during its campaign for an independent Basque state.
The two suspects, Oroitz Gurruchaga Gogorza and his alleged deputy Javier Aramburu Sagarminaga, were arrested in a joint operation by French and Spanish police, the Spanish interior ministry said on Sunday.
They were captured in the French village of Cauna, in the country's southwest, while travelling in a stolen vehicle with fake number plates. Both men were armed with handguns.
"The presence of both men in southern France could indicate they were setting up meetings to recruit new ETA members," the ministry said.
According to Spanish investigators, Gogorza, 30, joined the group in 2008, quickly rising through the ranks. His deputy, Sagarminaga, 32, was suspected of being behind a string of bomb attacks in 2008 in Spain's Basque region.
ETA is thought to have been responsible for the deaths of 829 people during its four-decade armed campaign for an independent Basque state in northern Spain and southern France. It announced a permanent cease-fire in October, but has not yet relinquished its weapons or given up its underground activity.
ccp/ncy (AFP, dpa)