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France Arrests 2 Suspected Basque Terrorists - 2002-09-17

Spain is hailing the arrests of two suspected Basque terrorists in France as "magnificent news." The two are considered to be senior members of the Basque separatist group ETA, which is on the U.S. State Department's list of terrorist organizations.

French police arrested the suspected ETA members late Monday near the French city of Bordeaux.

Juan Antonio Olarra Guridi, 35, is considered the military head of the Basque separatist group. He is also implicated in nine assassinations, allegedly carried out by ETA in Spain, during the 1990s.

He was arrested along with Ainhoa Mugica-Goni, 32,who is reported to be wanted on 11 arrest warrants.

Spanish officials describe the two as key figures in ETA's military structure. Both are on the European Union's list of wanted terrorists.

The Basque group is blamed for the deaths of more than 800 people during its bloody, three decade campaign to establish an independent state in northern Spain and southern France. Among other deaths, Mr. Olarra Guridi is implicated in the killing of Francisco Tomas y Valiente, the former president of Spain's constitutional court.

Also arrested Monday was a 23-year-old French woman, who is believed to be active in ETA's youth wing.

The terrorist group suffered a separate setback this summer, when the Spanish government moved to ban the Basque Batasuna Party. Spanish authorities consider Batasuna the political arm of ETA. But the move has sparked popular protests in Spain's Basque region.