Top ETA Leader Extradited to Spain as Basque Police Continue Swoop
A leader of the Basque separatist group ETA, Jose Luis Urrusolo Sistiaga, was extradited from France to Spain Thursday as police continued to swoop on suspected ETA sympathizers in the Basque region.
Urrusolo Sistiaga, known as "Langile", or "great" in Basque, is suspected by the Spanish judiciary of carrying out 16 assassinations and two kidnappings.
The 44-year-old arrived in Madrid on an Air France flight from Paris and was due later to appear before Spanish judge Baltasar Garzon.
Urrusolo Sistiaga is also suspected of having participated in a failed car bomb assassination attempt on Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar in April 1995, then leader of the opposition.
"The thousand faces," as he is also know by the press due to his surprising capacity to disguise himself, is one of ETA's most emblematic leaders. He also allegedly headed the tough "Madrid commando" during the 1980s.
From 1994 until his capture in January 1997, Urrusolo Sistiaga was believed to have been responsible for logistics, training new recruits in handling weapons and explosives, as well as car theft, Spanish police said.
During his arrest at road block near the French city of Bordeaux , Urrusolo Sistiaga told the police officers: "you have made a nich swoop, I am a leading member of ETA."
Meanwhile, some 25 kilos of explosive were seized Thursday in a garage in Zaldibia, in the northern Basque province of Guipuzcoa, as part of a wide-scale anti-ETA operation, regional police said.
The garage was being used by suspected ETA bomb-makers and also contained fake number plates.
The swoop came a day after eight people were arrested on suspicion of links to an ETA commando and Basque police said they had seized 160 kilos of explosives, arms and a booby-trapped car primed for use.
The crackdown follows a booby-trapped toy car attack which killed a grandmother and blinded her grandson sparking anger and resentment in the Basque country, as hundreds took to the streets to demonstrate.
ETA has said it had nothing to do with the attack, which Spanish officials have blamed on radical young separatist sympathizers.
Police said the explosives seized over the past few days came from a consignment stolen in March by ETA activists from a warehouse in the French city of Grenoble.
ETA is fighting for an independent homeland in northern Spain and southern France -- MADRID (AFP)
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