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Page last updated at 02:12 GMT, Sunday, 19 April 2009 03:12 UK

France holds Eta 'military chief'

Suspected Eta leader Jurdan Martitegi Lizaso (archive image from Spanish national radio)
There were no immediate reports of a struggle during the arrest

A man described as the military leader of the Basque separatist group Eta has been captured in south-western France, Spanish government sources say.

Jurdan Martitegi was detained with two other suspected Eta members near Perpignan in a joint Franco-Spanish security operation.

Another six suspected Eta members were detained in Bilbao and other cities.

The news comes just over a week since the arrest in Paris of another top Eta suspect, Ekaitz Sirvent Auzmendi.

Mr Martitegi is the third suspected Eta military chief to be detained by the French security forces in the past five months.

Eta is blamed for the deaths of more than 820 people in its 40-year campaign for an independent Basque nation.

Arrest after arrest

The three men arrested on Saturday were armed with three pistols and had a car with false number plates, Spanish media report.

Suspected Eta member Itxaso Legorburu Madinabeitia in a photo released by French police, 16 April
A suspected woman member of Eta was also arrested in France this week

French police say they were picked up in Montauriol, in the eastern Pyrenees region which borders Spain.

The Spanish interior ministry named one of the other detained suspects as Alexander Uriarte Cuadrado, adding that the third had not been conclusively identified.

Mr Martitegi is alleged to have assumed the military command of Eta since the arrest in December of Aitzol Irionda, also in south-west France.

Mr Irionda himself had allegedly just taken over the military command from Mikel Garikoitz Aspiazu Rubina, also known as Txeroki, after the latter's arrest in France in October.

Once regarded as a safe haven for Basque militants, France began arresting Eta suspects after the group called off a 15-month-old ceasefire in June 2007.

A suspected woman member of Eta, Itxaso Legorburu Madinabeitia, was arrested in the central French town of Mezieres-en-Brenne on Thursday.

Another suspected member with her managed to escape.

The two had reportedly been inside a gun shop when they aroused suspicion and police were called.



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