Basque separatist leader arrested

2012-10-28 08:11

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Madrid - French police have arrested a suspected leader of the Basque separatist group ETA, the Spanish interior ministry announced early on Sunday.

The arrested woman, Isaskun Lesaka, was picked up along with an accomplice by France's RAID anti-terrorism police unit near Macon, 70 kilometres from Lyons in central France, the ministry said in a statement.

Lesaka is "one of the three main figures" in the armed group, the interior ministry statement said.

The identity of the other arrested suspect was not given, but Spanish media named him as Joseba Iturbe Otxoteka.

The pair were arrested in a serviced apartment in an operation launched by the Spanish and French police, the statement said.

The arrests are a new blow to the Basque separatist organisation which announced a year ago that it had abandoned violence in its 40-year fight for an independent homeland in northern Spain and southwestern France that has claimed more than 800 lives.

While vowing to abandon violence ETA has refused to disband and disarm, though it has only dozens of active members left.

ETA is on the EU and US terror group lists.

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