Spanish police detain three ETA suspects, seize explosives

MADRID — Spanish police detained three suspected ETA members Wednesday and seized over 100 kilos of explosives in their third strike against the Basque separatist group this month, the interior ministry said.

The three were arrested in the Basque town of Villabona and they are believed to be part of an ETA commando cell that was hitherto unknown to the police, it said in a statement.

A police search of a garage used by the suspects turned up 101 kilos (223 pounds) of explosives, eight detonators, 10 timers, a gun as well as various equipment used to make bombs and a stolen car.

ETA frequently used stolen cars in their attacks, either as get-away vehicles or as car bombs.

“Police are analyzing the material which was found during the operation, which remains open,” the statement said.

The outfit is blamed for 829 deaths in its 42-year campaign for independence for the Basque region of northern Spain and southwestern France.

Spanish media said the operation was the result of information provided by an ETA member arrested in February, Ibai Beobide.

It said that among those held on Wednesday was Javier Atristain Gorosabel, who had fled to France after Beobide’s arrest.

The operation comes some 24 hours after the arrests of seven suspected members of ETA’s international arm, Askapena.

Police arrested nine leaders of Ekin, an ETA support group that was declared illegal by Spain’s National Court in 2007, on September 14.

The Spanish government has vowed to eradicate ETA unless it unilaterally and unconditionally renounces violence and disarms.

It has rejected a series of ETA statements in past weeks offering a ceasefire in the right conditions.

The government believes its campaign against ETA, with dozens of arrests made in cooperation with forces in other countries, particularly France, has seriously weakened ETA’s operational capacity.

ETA announced a “permanent ceasefire” in March 2006 and started tentative peace talks with Madrid.

But in December 2006 it set off a bomb in a car park at Madrid’s airport, killing two men, and in June 2007 it formally called off that ceasefire, citing a lack of concessions by the government in peace talks.

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