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2 Top ETA Suspects Arrested in France

Europe: Spanish official says the men gave orders in the separatist group blamed for violence.

September 18, 2002|From Reuters

MADRID — Spain said Tuesday that two top leaders of the Basque separatist group ETA had been arrested in a police swoop in southwestern France, and officials called the development a major blow against the outlawed organization.

"Today is a very important day in the fight against terrorism," Interior Minister Angel Acebes said, confirming the arrest near Bordeaux on Monday night of ETA suspects Juan Antonio Olarra Guridi, 35, and Ainhoa Mugica, 32.

Olarra and Mugica "were the ones who gave the orders, provided all the material for the attacks ... and most importantly, they were the ones who selected the targets," Acebes said, describing them as top leaders.

However, ETA is known not to rely on a vertical command structure, using committees of leaders instead, which has enabled it to withstand high-level arrests.

Olarra had 20 arrest warrants outstanding against him, 11 of them international warrants, Acebes said.

Mugica was wanted on nine national and three international arrest warrants, the interior minister said.

Both are named on European Union and U.S. lists of wanted international terrorists.

ETA stands for Basque Homeland and Freedom. The group is blamed for more than 800 killings during its 34-year-old campaign of bombings and shootings aimed at carving an independent Basque homeland out of territory straddling northern Spain and southwestern France.

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