28 February 2010

ETA Leader Arrested In France According to Spanish Officials

Ibon Gogeascoechea, suspected leader of the Basque nationalist organization Euskadi Ta Askatasuna (ETA), as well as two other high level officials, were arrested in a rented cottage in Normandy today. The Spanish interior ministry told reporters that the cottage was rented using false identity papers.

Gogeascoechea was wanted on charges stemming from a 1997 plot to blow up the Guggenheim Bilbao museum at its opening. He is accused of planting 12 explosive devices. The plot was discovered before the bombs exploded.

ETA (translated "Basque Homeland and Freedom") was founded in 1959 with the goal of creating an independent Basque state in parts of northern Spain and southern France. The group is considered to be a terrorist organization and is held responsible for the death of 825 people in recent years.

ETA declared a permanent ceasefire in 2006 following the Madrid train bombing, but returned to violence within only a few months.

Roughly 30 ETA members have been arrested in the past year.

According to a New York Times report, experts "say the arrests of several of the groups military leaders in the past year by the Spanish and French police have put the group under pressure. Those analysts say they believe that the group has also been weakened by an internal struggle between hard-liners who want to continue the campaign of violence and those who want a political solution."

It is anybody's guess whether the most recent arrests will play a significant role in further defining this internal struggle.

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