Sunday, February 28, 2010

Another ETA Leader Nabbed

CNN: Spain: Basque ETA Chief Arrested
Telegraph.UK: ETA Leader Arrested in France

French police arrested three high-level leaders of the Basque separatist group ETA on Sunday in a rural home in Normandy. The leader of the group, Ibon Gogeascoechea Arronategui had been running from authorities for 12 years after the murder of a police officer. The two other leaders arrested were Beinat Aguinagalde Ugartemendia and Gregorio Jimenez Morales, also fugitives wanted for deadly car bombings and missile attacks in furtherance of the ETA’s mission.

The Euskadi ta Askatasuna, better known as the ETA, was formed in 1959 to fight for Basque Country independence from Spain and France. The group, listed as a terrorist group by the United States, the European Union, and France, claim seven regions in northern Spain and southern France as “Basque” independent regions, and the group uses violence to campaign for secession. The group employs a small army of mostly youthful reengades willing to perform deadly missions to fight for separatism. Some suggest that the group could be as large as a few hundred; while other Spanish authorities say that the group might be less than half that. Despite the fact the the Basque region now has its own parliament, police force, education system, and taxes, it continues to fight for absolute indpendence from Spain and France using violence and threats.

The ETA has historically used France and Portugal as logistic bases for their terroist activities because of intense police pressure in Spain, although neither of these neighboring countries desire to harbor members of the radical, violent group and have recently improved police cooperation to deal with the problem.

Gogeascoechea’s arrest comes at the end of two busy months of ETA enforcement in the region. Security officials have arrested 32 known members of the group, confiscated over 4,000 pounds of explosives, thwarted ETA bomb factory planning in Portugal, and have prevented plans of ETA development across Spain. Since May 2008 the principal leadership of the ETA has changed hands five times as the leaders are detained by authorities. Gogeascoechea took control of the terrorist group in May 2008 after his predecessor was arrested in Bordeaux. Spanish authorities suggest that ETA support is diminishing because of the rise in popularity of the more moderate Basque nationalists and the sentiment that ETA’s mission to separate from France and Spain is dated and out of touch with public opinion. ETA officials claim otherwise, that they will simply continue to fight for complete independence and appoint new ETA leaders to further that goal.