Six ‘ETA separatists’ arrested in France

Despite Basque separist group ETA officially having ended its armed campaign French authorities continue to hunt down its members. On Tuesday six suspected members of the organisation were arrested in raids across France.

Six 'ETA separatists' arrested in France
French police arrested six members of Basque separist group ETA on Tuesday. Photo: AFP

France said on Tuesday it had arrested six members of ETA, as authorities continue to hunt down those who belong to the Basque separatist group over a year after it ended all armed activity.

The arrests come after a suspected top commander of ETA – considered a terrorist group by the European Union and United States – got a life sentence in April for the 2007 murder of two Spanish police officers in France.

According to an interior ministry statement, the six were arrested in different parts of France on Tuesday morning, and five of them were already on wanted lists.

"Despite positive developments on this issue in the Spanish Basque Country, our national territory is still a base for the logistical and military withdrawal of clandestine structures of the organisation," the ministry said.

The six were arrested in Blois, a city in central France, and Brive-la-Gaillarde and Montpellier, in the southwest of the country.

ETA is blamed for 829 deaths in a four-decade campaign of bombings and shootings for independence for the Basque Country of northern Spain and southwestern France.

The organisation announced in October 2011 that it was giving up its armed struggle.

But it has yet to formally disarm and the Spanish government has refused to hold talks with its leaders.

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Spain demands that Eta apologise and disband

Spain on Saturday demanded that Basque separatist group Eta apologise for decades of violence and then disband "definitively" after it provided France with a list of arms caches to finalise a promise to disarm.

Spain demands that Eta apologise and disband
Police forces and demining team officers identify weapons handed by ETA in Saint-Pee-sur-Nivelle on April 8. Photo: IROZ GAIZKA/AFP
In a statement, Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy said the arms cache move signalled the “definitive defeat” of Eta, blamed for 829 deaths dating back to 1968.
Describing the separatist organisation as “terrorists”, Rajoy reiterated the group could expect no government favours as a result and “still less, impunity for their crimes”.
“The only logical response to this situation is (for Eta) to announce its definitive dissolution, to apologise to its victims and to disappear rather than mount media operations to disguise its defeat,” said a government statement.
Madrid added it would not make an “evaluation” of the weapons arsenal until French authorities have neutralised eight caches of weapons containing 120 firearms and three tonnes of explosives in the southwestern Pyrenees-Atlantiques department bordering Spain.
French Interior Minister Matthias Fekl earlier described the move to hand over remaining arms as a “major step”.
In 2011, Eta announced that it had abandoned its armed campaign, but did not give up its weapons. It also continued to insist on amnesty talks for some 360 jailed group members, 75 of them in France.