Published: 29 Oct 2012 10:43 GMT+01:00 | Print version
Updated: 29 Oct 2012 10:43 GMT+01:00
French police have arrested a top leader of the Basque separatist group ETA in eastern France, the Spanish interior ministry said in a statement on Sunday.
Izaskun Lesaka, the "most experienced of the three main leaders" of the banned organization, was arrested during a raid by an elite French police unit at a hotel in the town of Macon, near the city of Lyon, it said.
She was arrested with a man, also described as an ETA member, who the statement and a French source identified as Joseba Iturbide.
They were arrested at 2:00 am (0100 GMT), a source said.
Both of them were in possession of weapons.
Lesaka had been on the run since 2005 and was sentenced in absentia to seven years in France in January over her involvement in ETA.
According to Spanish newspaper El Mundo, Lesaka was running the separatist group's military arm.
Born in Pamplona in 1975, she often used to stay in hotels and small bed and breakfasts to avoid detection.
Searches at the hotel in Macon continued Sunday afternoon. The roads leading to it were blocked off by unmarked police cars, an AFP photographer said.
The pair were driven away from the hotel in the afternoon in a police van.
The arrests were 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.
ETA's armed struggle 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. The group is on the EU and US terror group lists.
Spanish Interior Minister Jorge Fernandez Diaz telephoned French counterpart Manuel Valls to thank him "for the decisive help", the Spanish interior ministry said, stressing the "enormous importance of this operation".
Valls for his part hailed the "fruitful Franco-Spanish cooperation" in fighting terrorism.
But radical pro-independence Basque groups slammed the arrests, which take to 24 the number of ETA members arrested, 16 in France alone.
"It is totally incomprehensible that a year after (ETA's announcement that it was abandoning armed struggle) they continue to make political arrests," said a statement by the Basque group Left Abertzale.
Not everyone gets the chance to party with the stars at the Cannes festival for two days, unless that is, you are the French double of 'Gangnam style' entertainer Psy and you have the nerves of steel to pretend to be him. Meet Denis Carre our undisputed French Face of the Week. READ () »
Jewellery thieves have had some rich pickings at Cannes this year with jewellers announcing on Thursday that a €2million diamond De Grisogono necklace had been stolen, just days after €1.4 million worth of Chopard bling was pilfered. READ () »
Higher education has dominated the news in France recently thanks to plans for more courses to be taught in English so there's no better time to speak to an international academic to find out more about being a lecturer at a French university. READ () »
Of all the inappropriate shapes a teacher could use to teach geometry a swastika has to be near the top of the list, but not for one prof in France, whose use of the Nazi symbol to demonstrate angles has landed her in a spot of bother. READ () »
A contentious proposal that would see more courses at French universities taught in English was given the green light by deputies in the French parliament on Thursday. Critics say the move will lead to France losing its identity. READ () »
France said on Thursday that there were dead among the victims of twin bombings at a uranium processing plant owned by French nuclear giant Areva and a military base in northern Niger. READ () »
A British national, suspected of being the mastermind of €1.6 million bank fraud scam in France was found hanged in his cell in a French prison this week. READ () »
Germany's opposition Social Democrats mark their 150th birthday Thursday, with French President Francois Hollande as the only foreign speaker and conservative Chancellor Angela Merkel in the audience. READ () »
Liberté, egalité, fraternité, the famous motto of the French Republic must be displayed on the facade of all French schools and the Tricolour flag must also be on show outside all establishments, the French Senate ruled on Wednesday. READ () »
French prosecutors investigating corruption are set to decide on Thursday whether to charge IMF chief Christine Lagarde over her handling of a row that resulted in a €400 million payout being paid to disgraced businessman Bernard Tapie. READ () »