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Suspected ETA chief arrested

French police arrested the suspected leader of Basque separatist group ETA as part of joint cross-border raids, Spain's Interior Ministry said yesterday. He was among nine alleged ETA members arrested in recent days.

Jurdan Martitegi Lizaso, 28, was arrested on Friday in the small village of Montauriol in southeast France, the ministry said. It was another blow to ETA, which has had to cope with the arrests of three of its alleged leaders in less than six months and a wave of other detentions in France and Spain in recent months.

"Martitegi has committed many unfortunately successful terror attacks," Interior Minister Alfredo Perez Rubalcaba said.

Martitegi was involved in a car bombing in September in the northern town of Santona that killed an army officer and injured six other people, he said.

The suspected ETA leader was also connected to at least two other car bombings - one in the city of Calahorra in March that damaged 350 homes and the other in August 2007 in which two police officers were slightly wounded.

Martitegi allegedly took over ETA's leadership following the arrest of the previous suspected commander, Aitzol Iriondo, in December.

Martitegi was caught along with Alexander Uriarte Cuadrado, 27, and a third, unnamed, suspect, authorities said. Three guns, two cars - one with false license plates - and suspected bomb-making equipment were seized. Rubalcaba said a small quantity of explosives were also found and were being analyzed by French police.


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