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Military Leader of ETA Under Arrest

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Lisa Bryant

French and Spanish authorities have arrested six alleged members of ETA, including the reported military leader of the Basque separatist group.

The French Interior Ministry said the arrests of the ETA members took place in the French Basque region.  Among those nabbed was ETA's presumed military chief, Mikel Karrera Sarobe, and two others.  

Spain's Interior Ministry said three other suspected members were arrested in a separate location along with one of their companions.  The arrests were made by French police and the Spanish Civil Guards.

If confirmed, the arrest of ETA's military chief is the latest in a series setbacks for the separatist group, which has waged a bloody campaign for an independent Basque state in parts of northern Spain and southwestern France.  ETA is blamed for the deaths of more than 800 people during the past four decades, with most of the assassinations taking place in Spain.

French ETA expert Christian Aguerre says the arrests underscore the group's increasing weakness.  French and Spanish authorities have arrested five other ETA leaders during the past two years.

Aguerre said that in the 1980s and 1990s, authorities arrested key ETA members every few years.  Today, it is happening every few months.  The replacements are increasingly young and inexperienced.

Aguerre believes ETA will eventually be eradicated, but it is impossible to say when.  He doubts it will take place this year or even in a few years from now.

ETA has increasingly lost support among ordinary Basques, partly because of its bloody tactics.  At the same time, Aguerre notes, it has always been able to find young, disenfranchised Basques to join its cause.

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