Top ETA leader held in France

April 20th, 2009 - 3:28 am ICT by IANS  

Paris, Apil 20 (EFE) A top leader of the Basque terrorist group (ETA) has been arrested by security forces in southeastern France, authorities said Sunday.
Jurdan Martitegui Lizaso, who is believed to be the current leader of the Spanish terrorist group, was detained Saturday along with two other people he was meeting at a church near southeastern French city of Perpinan.

French and Spanish police had launched a joint operation to nab Lizaso, who had been sought by authorities since 2006.

According to Spanish Interior Minister Alfredo Perez Rubalcaba, Martitegui was the head of ETA’s military wing.

“In all likelihood, we have the chief of ETA’s military wing,” Rubalcaba said, adding that whether the suspect was ETA’s top leader was still “something up for discussion”.

Martitegui, who was considered extremely violent, is known as “the Giant” because of his height (6 feet and 5 inches). The suspect will be taken to Paris for questioning, officials said.

ETA, an acronym for Homeland and Freedom in Basque language, has killed more than 850 people since taking up arms in 1968 to seek a Basque nation comprising parts of northern Spain and southern France.

The terrorist group has carried out nearly two dozen attacks since June 5, 2007, when it ended its unilateral ceasefire with the Spanish government.

The terrorist group had declared a “permanent ceasefire” in March 2006 in an apparent attempt to negotiate peace with Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero’s government.

Most observers, however, regarded the Dec 30, 2006, attack at the Madrid airport as marking the end of the terrorist group’s ceasefire.

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