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Spanish Police Arrest 8 in Basque Country Raid

August 23, 2001|From Associated Press

MADRID — Spanish police arrested eight suspected members of a Basque separatist group Wednesday, seizing weapons and bomb-making material, including a vehicle being prepared for a car bomb attack.

Police officers wearing masks to conceal their identities hauled boxes of evidence out of apartments after their dawn raid against suspected hide-outs of ETA separatists in the towns of Zizurkil, Zaldibia and Lasarte.

The security chief for the Basque Country, Javier Balza, called the raid "the most important police operation against ETA's infrastructure since the '80s" in the province of Guipuzcoa. He said the crackdown would continue.

Police seized weapons, cellular phones, 352 pounds of explosives and a stolen vehicle that was being readied inside a garage in Lasarte as a car bomb for an imminent attack, Balza said.

The national news agency Efe said two women and six men, between the ages of 23 and 28, were arrested. Some of them are believed to be connected to the July 15 killings of a local politician and a Basque police officer. Balza said the arrests broke up an ETA group known as the "Buruntza commando."

The ETA has been blamed for 35 killings since ending a cease-fire in December 1999. The group, whose name is an acronym meaning Basque Homeland and Freedom, has killed about 800 people since 1968.

The ETA, one of Europe's last remaining guerrilla groups, has targeted the Spanish tourism industry this summer. On Saturday, a car bomb exploded outside a hotel in the Mediterranean resort of Cap de Salou, but a warning call enabled police to evacuate hundreds of people before the blast, and no one was seriously hurt.

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