MADRID—French and Spanish authorities have arrested the chief of the ETA, Basque Homeland and Freedom, the separatist group considered terrorists by the European Union.
The central bureau of internal affairs and French police intelligence, in collaboration with the Spanish Guardia Civil and the Spanish National Intelligence Center (CNI), arrested Mikel Kabikoitz Carrera Sarobe on Thursday morning in the French town of Bayonne, announced Spanish Internal Affairs Minister Alfredo Perez Rubalcaba at a press conference.
According to the minster, Carrera Sarobe "was the number one objective of the police and civil guard,” and was arrested while he was at a meeting, working with two other ETA members, one of them allegedly being Carrera Sarobe's right hand and successor, Arkaitz Agirregabiria.
"They were meeting, they were hidden, and were working. This shows that ETA keeps doing what it does," he said.
The arrest is a serious blow to the terrorist group, perhaps the most important in recent years, according to the Spanish minister. This is the seventh arrest of a top leader of ETA in the past two years, and the most recent since the arrest of the military and political leader of the gang.
This time, both the alleged military leader and the person "who would replace him" were arrested said minister Rubalcaba, so this operation is particularly important.
For the French police, the arrest of Arkaitz Agirregabiria, the presumed successor, also has an emotional component. Authorities believe he may be involved in the death of French policeman Jean-Serge Nerin, whose murder in a shootout with ETA members shook public opinion in France last March.
The other terrorist who was meeting with the leaders was Maite Aranalde Ijurco, who fled last year after she was released on bail due to a technical error. The terrorist, who was missing with a warrant for her arrest, is allegedly to also have high-level responsibilities in the military apparatus of ETA.
Experts believe Carrera Sarobe has been leading the band since last February, when the military head of ETA at the time, Ibon Gogesakoetxea, was arrested.