By David Sophrin
Impunity Watch Reporter, Europe
MADRID, Spain – The leader of the Basuqe separatist group ETA, which has fought for decades to establish an autonomous state in northern Spain, was captured in France today.
Ibon Gogeascoechea, 54, was arrested in the French town of Cahan in Normandy in the culmination of a long-term law joint enforcement investigation by French and Spanish officials. Gogeascoecha has been wanted for twelve years for the killing of a Spanish police officer. Benat Aguinegalde and Gregorio Jimenez Morales, both wanted by Spanish authorities, were also arrested in Cahan. The three men had been using falsified license plates and passport identification, with caused suspicion. According to Spanish Interior Minister Alfredo Perez Rubalcaba, the three men were planning “to enter Spain almost certainly with the worst of intentions.”
Gogeascoechea is the latest in a string of arrests of high-ranking ETA leaders. His arrest marks the fifth ETA leading official arrested since May 2008. Thirty-two ETA suspects were arrested overall in the last year. Gogeascoechea has also been wanted by Spanish police for his aid in the bombing of the Guggenheim museum in Biblio, Spain in 1997.
The ETA separatist movement has existed in northern Spain and southwestern France since the 1960s. The bombing and targeted killings carried out by ETA since then have resulted in approximately 825 deaths. The ultimate political objective of ETA is the establishment of an independent nation in that part of the Iberian peninsula.
These arrests are believed to have dealt a significant blow to ETA, which has been categorized as a terrorist organization by both the United States and the European Union. Rubalcaba warned, however, against the public becoming complacent. “This does not eliminate the risk of an attack. ETA has the worst intentions, so we can’t lower our guard.”
For more information, please see:
AP – Spain says ETA chief arrested in France – 28 February 2010
CNN – Spain: Basque ETA chief arrested – 28 February 2010
DEUTSCHE WELLE – Spain says top ETA rebel leader captured in France – 28 February 2010
TELEGRAPH – ETA leader arrested in France – 28 February 2010