By Daniel M. Austin
Impunity Watch Reporter, Europe
MADRID, Spain – On Thursday, March 10, French police stormed a cottage near the Belgian border and arrested four suspected members of the outlawed Basque separatist group, ETA. Among the individuals captured were ETA’s military chief and its chief explosives expert. The raid occurred two months after ETA’s senior leadership declared a formal cease fire on January 10.
During the raid, French police and members of the RAID, a French anti-terror unit descended on the village of Willencourt and arrested, Alejandro Zobaran Arriola, the suspected military chief of ETA. He is responsible for coordinating the shooting and bombing campaigns that are carried out by ETA fighters. Along with Mr. Arriola, Mikel Oroz Torrea, who is suspected of being ETA’s top explosives expert, was also arrested. During the offensive, police seized two firearms along with forged documents.
The planning for Thursday operation began last month when the cottage owner tipped off authorities to the four suspects. The landlord contacted police after he grew suspicious of their nighttime activities. After the tip was received, local police officials determined the suspect’s car had a fake license plate. This prompted local law enforcement to contact the French anti-terror police to investigate further.
The arrests on Thursday are the second major blow to the ETA organization in the last two weeks. On March 1, Spanish police arrested four suspects in northern Spain who are allegedly connected to armed terrorist group. Spanish and French authorities have been working together to hunt down and capture members of this organization who often try to avoid detection by moving back and forth between the border regions of Spain and France,
ETA’s leadership declared a “permanent and general” cease fire on January 10, 2011. The last terrorist attack by ETA agents was carried out in August 2009. Over the past 50 years, ETA has killed more than 850 people during their struggle to establish an independent Basque state in northern Spain and southern France.
Notwithstanding the January 10 self-imposed cease fire, Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero has called for the total disbandment of ETA. Along with the most recent arrests, dozens of other ETA members have been arrested throughout Europe. Spanish officials believe this campaign has crippled the organization’s top leadership.
For more information, please see:
BBC News — ‘Eta military chief’ Arriola arrested in France – 11 March 2011
Daily Mail — ETA terror chief snared in daring police raid on French town – 11 March 2011
Irish Times — French police arrest senior Eta activists – 11 March 2011
Washington Post — French police arrest 4 Basque ETA suspects – 11 March 2011