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ETA Chief Arrested in Northern France

Spain says the leader of the armed Basque separatist group ETA has been arrested in northern France, along with two other suspects from the outlawed group.

Authorities say the chief suspect, identified as Ibon Gogeascoechea, and two suspected lieutenants were arrested in a joint French-Spanish police operation in Normandy.

Spanish Interior Minister Alfredo Perez Rubalcaba announced the arrests Sunday in a nationally televised news conference.

Gogeascoechea is wanted for his alleged involvement in a foiled 1997 plot to rig an art museum in northern Spain with explosives, on the eve of the gallery's inauguration by Spanish King Juan Carlos. The plot was discovered before the bombs exploded.

Gogeascoechea is the fifth suspected ETA leader to be arrested since 2008. The Spanish interior minister said the separatist group replaced its top leader after each previous arrest.

Spain, the European Union and the United States classify ETA as a terrorist organization.

The group is blamed for around 830 deaths in its four-decade armed struggle for an independent Basque homeland in northeastern Spain and southwestern France.

Some information for this report provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.