MADRID, Spain – Spanish terrorist group Euskadi Ta Askatasuna (ETA, Basque homeland and freedom) took a major hit when Mikel de Kabikoitz Carrera Sarobe, who officials suspect is the organization’s leader, was arrested during a police raid in Bayonne, France, on May 20.
Authorities also apprehended Arkaitz Aguirregabiria, suspected of being group’s second in command and responsible for its military structure and training of terrorists.
Benoit Aramendia and Maite Arañadle Ijurco, who police suspect are ETA members, also were arrested, according to numerous media reports.
“Arkaitz was called to replace ‘Ata,’” said Spanish Interior Minister Alfredo Pérez Rubalcaba, referring to Sarobe’s alias. “The arrest of both meant a big hit to the group.”
Sarobe and Agirregabiria were wanted in connection with the killing of a member of the French national police during a gunfight in Paris in March, according to The Times of London.
“Carrera Sarobe was the police’s and the Spanish Civil Guards’ number one objective,” said Pérez Rubalcaba. “The arrest of Arkaitz, the most sought after terrorist in France, makes us particularly happy.”
The apprehensions occurred in the wake of allegations concerning the ETA’s activities in Latin America.
Spanish Judge Eloy Velasco, in his writ in March, wrote “there are inquiries in this proceeding that demonstrate the Venezuelan government’s cooperation with the illicit collaboration between FARC and ETA.”
Velasco, in his writ, named Arturo Cubillas Fontán, a Spanish national who is married to a Venezuelan woman and who has held several posts in President Hugo Chávez’s administration, as the liaison between ETA and its Latin American counterparts.
In his writ, Velasco also alleges that since 2005, Cubillas has been a director in one of the offices under the Venezuelan Ministry of Agriculture and Lands, but he’s also been the head of the ETA in the region and has been coordinating FARC activities since 1999.
Colombia's Departament0 Administrativo de Seguridad (DAS, Administrative Department of Security) said ETA operatives and “some Iranian groups” allegedly have been trained by members of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) in camps in Venezuela, according to a recent report that was sourced by the Colombian newspaper El Espectador.
ETA members trained FARC guerrillas and Iranian operatives on bomb making in Venezuela, The Washington Post reported.
“In these camps, located in Apure; Maturín (state of Monagas); Santa Cruz de Aragua and the suburbs of Maracay (Aragua state) there would be members of Basque terrorist group ETA, some Iranian groups and members of FARC’s Front 59,” the DAS report states, according to Spanish news agency EFE.
The FARC requested ETA’s assistance in planned killings of prominent Colombian politicians, including President Álvaro Uribe, former President Andrés Pastrana and presidential candidates Antanas Mockus and Noemí Sanín, according to The Washington Post.
Mockus’ security has been tightened since April 26, when Colombian officials received an anonymous tip concerning a possible assassination attempt being made against the Green Party candidate.
Editor’s note: Reporter Xavier de la Rochelle contributed to this article from Paris; César Morales Colón from Washington, D.C.