October 6, 2015 / 3:52 PM / 3 years ago

Spain, France arrest member of Basque group ETA near Paris

MADRID (Reuters) - Spanish and French police arrested a long-sought leading member of the militant Basque separatist group ETA in a Paris suburb on Tuesday after a series of recent operations against the group.

Two ETA leaders were also arrested in late September in a joint operation with France.

The Spanish Interior Ministry said Egoitz Urrutikoetxea, who was detained in the Saint Denis suburb of northern Paris, was a prominent figure in ETA’s political apparatus.

Urrutikoetxea, the fugitive son of a one-time prominent ETA leader known as Josu Ternera, has been sentenced by French courts twice for the crime of association with a terrorist group. His father, who was sentenced along with him in his last trial in 2010, is still at large.

ETA was formed in the late 1950s during the dictatorship of Francisco Franco and aims to establish an independent Basque state in northern Spain and southern France. It called a unilateral ceasefire in 2011 and pledged to turn in its weapons.

Spain said in September the arrest of two ETA leaders in the French Pyrenees meant that those responsible for the group’s remaining weapons and explosives were not longer at large.

ETA retaliated by saying the arrests were making it harder to complete its disarmament and could harm the peace process.

The group has killed more than 800 people over several decades, according to the Spanish government. ETA has been severely weakened in recent years after hundreds of its members were arrested and some of its weapons were seized.

Reporting by Sarah White and Inmaculada Sanz; Editing by Tom Heneghan

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