Home>News Center>World

18 ETA suspects held in raids
Updated: 2004-10-03 20:58

A vast police operation in France and Spain netted at least 18 suspected members of the armed Basque separatist group ETA and large stocks of weapons, authorities said.

Seventeen suspects were captured in towns in southwest France, and another was arrested in the northern Spanish city of Burgos, French police authorities said Sunday.

Spain's Interior Ministry put the number of suspects in custody at 21. The discrepancy with the French figure could not immediately be explained.

Spanish authorities said those detained included two well-known ETA leaders, Mikel Albizu Iriarte -- alias Mikel Antza -- and Soledad Iparraguirre, who uses the alias "Amboto." They are a couple, have a son and have been on the run since 1993.

Iparraguirre is considered one of the leading female members of the armed group.

Mikel Albizu is thought to have been a top ETA leader for the last 12 years, since police devastated the organization by arresting most of its senior members.

Albizu managed to escape a police raid last April that netted an ETA logistics chief, Feliz Ignacio Esparza.

The other suspects' identities and nationalities were not immediately released.

Spanish officials described the raids as a major operation that will weaken the logistics of the group. ETA has since the 1960s carried out bombings and assassinations in Spain in a campaign to get an independent Basque state.

Spanish media reports said those in detention included Mikel Albizu Iriarte, who is thought to have been a top leader of the group for the last 12 years.

The suspect arrested in Burgos in Spain was thought to have planted bombs for ETA in September at power installations, French police said. His wife was among the 17 people picked up in several towns between Pau and Bayonne in southwestern France.

The wife was expected to be questioned by French anti-terrorist judge Laurence Le Vert, who traveled to the area Sunday with a heavy police escort.

Weapons caches

Police also uncovered seven separate stocks of weapons, including rocket launchers, assault rifles, munitions and explosives.

Some 140 police agents took part in the raids.

French authorities sent the suspects' fingerprints to Spanish police for help in determining their identities.

The raids came on the heels of the arrests earlier this week in Spain of five people who were suspected of helping ETA members slip across the border into France.

ETA militants have long crossed into the peaceful Basque provinces of southwest France to take refuge or make plans. French and Spanish authorities closely cooperate to hunt them down.

The armed group is classified as a terrorist group by the European Union and the United States. It has claimed or has been blamed for more than 800 deaths.

  Today's Top News     Top World News

For peace, Indian troops mark China festival



Singapore issues stern warning to Taiwan



China has no immediate plan to join G7



Auto recall rules have teeth



Dog with bird flu sparks new fears



Sino-Russian oil pipeline pending


  18 ETA suspects held in raids
  Dog with bird flu sparks new fears
  Abuses in Afghan campaign, but UN sees fair vote
  US warns of big Mount St. Helens blast
  U.S. commander claims success in Samarra
  Attacks in India kill more than 40 people
  Go to Another Section  
  Story Tools  
  Related Stories  
Toll rises to 198 dead, 1,430 hurt by Madrid bombs
Spain rail blast
Madrid: 'This is a massacre'
  News Talk  
  Are the Republicans exploiting the memory of 9/11?