Former ETA leader detained in France

MADRID, May 16 (Xinhua) — A former leader of armed Basque separatist militant group ETA has been arrested in France, the Spanish Interior Ministry confirmed on Thursday.

Jose Antonio Urrutikoetxea Bengoetxea, also known as Josu Ternera, 69, who has spent 17 years on the run, was arrested “in the early hours of the morning in Sallanches in the French Alps,” said the ministry in a communique.

It is reported that Ternera was arrested on his way to a hospital appointment, and that he is seriously ill.

The man, regarded as one of the ETA’s most symbolic leaders, had been missing since 2002, although he was one of the ETA members who announced a communique of the group’s final dissolution in 2018.

The announcement said the ETA had “completely dismantled all of its structures,” and that it would “no longer express political positions, promote initiatives or interact with other actors.”

It ended a 50-year violent campaign for the independence of the Basque region straddling Spain and France. The decades-long armed violence claimed over 850 lives.

Ternera had been imprisoned in both Spain and France in 1989 and 2000 respectively, but went missing in 2002 when he was summoned to appear in court on charges of a 1987 car bombing of a police barracks in the central Spanish city of Zaragoza, which killed 11 people, including five children.

Following his disappearance, an international arrest warrant was issued for Ternera and Interpol listed him among the most wanted fugitives.

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