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Crackdown on Basque Seperatists Prompted by Tourism Threat


Police in Barcelona Spain have arrested six suspected members of the Basque separatist group, ETA. They were reported to be preparing to carry out attacks against Spain's tourist industry.

It was the third day of police raids against ETA.

Agents of the Spanish Civil Guard arrested six suspected members of ETA in a pre-dawn raid of four apartments in Barcelona and its suburbs Friday.

It was part of an on-going operation that Spain's Interior Minister Mariano Rajoy says has prevented the terrorist separatist organization from restoring its infrastructure in Catalonia. He also said documentation seized in the operation listed potential ETA terrorist targets, including some in Spain's important tourist sector.

Some of those arrested are believed to be involved in the recent killings in the Catalan region of a former minister of health, two town councilman and a municipal policeman.

In a news conference Friday, Interior Minister Rajoy said the operation has so far netted 250 kilograms of explosives, firearms, false license plates, and material for preparing bombs. Police suspect that the explosives came from a heist of 1,800 kilograms of explosives from a depot in Grenoble, France earlier this year.

Mr. Rajoy also said that with this operation security forces have dismantled seven of the 11 cells that ETA was believed to have in Spain.

Friday's action was the third day of police raids against ETA. On Wednesday, the Basque regional police known as the Ertzaintza, arrested eight suspected ETA members. Police seized 160 kilograms of explosives, a car bomb ready for use, firearms and material for fabricating bombs. The ETA cell is believed to be responsible for at least 12 killings since ETA called off a 14-month long truce in December of 1999.

On Thursday, the Ertzaintza seized a further 25 kilograms of explosives in a garage said to be used by the separatists to prepare car bombs.

Between the two operations in Barcelona and the Basque country, Spanish security officials believe they have arrested those directly responsible for at least half of the 35 killings blamed on ETA since January of last year.

ETA is blamed for more than 800 killings in it's more than 30 year campaign to establish an independent Basque state in northern Spain and southern France.

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