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'Eta head' linked to airport bomb

handout photo from the Spanish interior ministry of Garikoitz Aspiazu Rubina, alias Txeroki (5 December 2007)
Spain says Txeroki is behind Eta's return to violence

The suspected head of Basque separatist group Eta has been charged over the December 2006 Madrid airport bombing.

The indictment, issued by a Spanish judge, says Miguel de Garikoitz Aspiazu Rubina ordered the attack and gave final instructions to the bombers.

The attack marked Eta's return to violence following the failure of talks with the Spanish government.

Mr Garikoitz Aspiazu, 35, is being held in France over the murder of two Spanish police officers there in 2007.

He was arrested a week ago. On Friday, he was placed under formal investigation, a measure which under French law gives investigators more time to examine evidence.

'Overall leader'

The Spanish indictment alleges that Mr Garikoitz Aspiazu, known by his nickname Txeroki, ordered the attack on Barajas airport during the summer of 2006 - and later gave the final instructions to the men who planted the bomb.

Two Ecuadorean immigrants were killed in the attack, and 68 people were injured. In all, the indictment names five alleged perpetrators.

The judge in Madrid has requested that he be transferred into Spanish custody.

The BBC's Steve Kingstone in Madrid says the government has portrayed this as one of the most significant arrests of recent times.

After his arrest, he was portrayed as the military head of Eta, but since then Interior Minister Alfredo Perez Rubalcaba has said Mr Garikoitz Aspiazu was in charge of the group's overall strategy.

They believe that Txeroki was responsible for the shift in militant tactics which led to the bomb attack.

Spain's security forces remain on high alert, in anticipation of a violent response from Eta.



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