It was a bad week for the Basque terrorist group ETA and anyone with any links to it. It started with mass arrests in Spain and ended with the arrest of two of the most wanted ETA terrorists in Saint-Jean-de-Luz, just across the border in France last Friday. The French police and a group of Guardia Civil had been watching a house in the town for several weeks which they suspected was being used as a refuge for Basque terrorists fleeing from the authorities in Spain. The house was rented to José Antonio Martínex Mur – one of ETA’s so-called historical figures – that is, a founder member -and his partner Asunción Bengoetxea Arano, both aged 58, neither of whom have cases pending against them. The police finally closed in last Friday and discovered Mikel San Sebastián Gaztelumendi and Joseba Iturbide Otxoteko, who were wanted in connection with the Madrid-Barajas airport bombing, in which two Ecuadorians were killed. They had narrowly escaped arrest on January 6th when the Guardia Civil raided a house in Lesaka, Navarre province, in which they captured Igor Portu and Mattin Sarasola. Interior Minister Alfredo Pérez Rubalcaba told a press conference on Saturday that all four belonged to ETA’s Elurra commando group which had been active since 2001. Sr Rabalcaba said: “We can say that our collaboration with the French police is at its most fertile, better than ever, more useful than ever, for which we can be grateful.” Earlier last week, the Spanish police arrested 14 suspected members of banned Batasuna party, ETA’s political wing, and accused them with collaboration with a terrorist organisation, holding illegal gatherings and trying to reorganise the party. Anti-terrorism judge Baltasar Garzon directed the overnight raids that led to Monday’s arrests from the Basque city of San Sebastian. The suspects were detained in several towns in the northern Basque territory and the neighbouring region of Navarra. Their arrests come days after Judge Garzon banned two other political parties, the Basque Nationalist Action and the Communist Party of Basque Lands, which are alleged to be Batasuna fronts. After last Monday’s crackdown, most of the Batasuna leaders are now in jail. Meanwhile, last Tuesday a French court has sentenced a former ETA military commander to 30 years in prison for the attempted murder of a French policeman. Ibon Fernandez Iradi shot the police officer eight times in the city of Bayonne in 2001, leaving him with near-fatal injuries. Doctors told the court it was a miracle the officer had survived. Iradi escaped from custody a year after the shooting, before being re-arrested. Spanish authorities say he was the head of recruitment for ETA, before becoming its military leader.
ETA MOST WANTED ARRESTED IN POLICE CRACK DOWN