International

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One of the highest-ranking members of the armed Basque group ETA, Javier Lopez Pena,
center, is held by a police officer and prevented from talking to the press (AP).

Eta Leader López Arrested in France

May 21, 2008 01:31 PM
by Josh Katz
French and Spanish authorities say they have detained Francisco Javier López Peña, a top leader of the Basque terrorist group.

30-Second Summary

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Police seized López and three other Eta members in the southwestern city of Bordeaux, France Tuesday evening. Stressing the importance of the capture, Spanish Interior Minister Alfredo Pérez Rubalcaba said, “This is not just another operation against ETA.”

The Eta had resumed its attacks against the Spanish government before the recent arrests occurred. Last week a bombing attributed to the Eta killed a policeman at a barracks and on Sunday night, the group detonated a bomb in the Basque town of Getxo.

The ETA had declared a ceasefire with the Spanish government in March 2006, but negotiations halted when the group killed two people in a Madrid car bombing in December of that year. Then in June 2007, the Eta announced an official end to the ceasefire.

Spanish authorities say López was integral in the decision to nullify the ceasefire. He is also “suspected of training ETA operatives, including Iker Aguirre, a suspect in the Madrid bombing, in the use of explosives,” the International Herald Tribune writes.

The arrest of López came came one day after the capture of a top official in guerilla group FARC in Colombia. It also came on the same day that Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero met with the moderate leader of the Basque Country regional government, Juan Jose Ibarretxe. Zapatero rejected Ibarretxe’s plan to have the Basque Country vote on a referendum regarding its sovereignty in Spain.
 
The Eta was formed in 1959, and it has sought through violence to create an independent Basque homeland.

Headline Link: ‘Top ETA Leader is Seized in France’

Background: End to ceasefire; Spain rejects referendum plan

Opinion & Analysis: ‘Arrest of Leader Deals Heavy Blow to Weakened ETA’

Reference: The Eta and the Basque region

Related Link: ‘FARC Leader Surrenders, Signaling Weakness in the Guerilla Group’

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