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TOWARD THE END OF ETA TERRORISM

Izaskun Lesaka, one of ETA’s remaining leaders, detained in France

Woman terrorist believed to have been behind communiques sent by organization since last year’s ceasefire

Mónica Ceberio Belaza

She was one of the Interior Ministry’s three main targets. Izaskun Lesaka, a leader of the Basque terrorist group ETA, was arrested early on Sunday in France.

The terrorist organization, which since the late 1950s has killed over 800 people, has seen 24 of its remaining members held this year in France, Spain and other countries. Along with David Pla and Iratxe Sorzabal, Lesaka was one of three ETA heavyweights still at large, and one of the individuals who announced an end to the group’s half-century of violence on October 20, 2011.

Lesaka is believed to have drafted all of ETA’s latest official releases.

The ETA leader was arrested around three in the morning inside an apart-hotel in Macon, some 70 kilometers north of Lyon, by elite forces in a joint operation by law enforcement authorities in Spain and France. Lesaka’s partner, Joseba Iturbe Otxoteka, also an ETA member, was arrested at the same time. Iturbe is suspected of involvement in the bomb attack against Barajas airport in Madrid that killed two people in 2006, putting an end to an earlier ETA ceasefire. Lesaka and Iturbe, who had been staying at the hotel for over a week, were carrying weapons and using a stolen car with false license plates.

Since ETA announced a cessation of violence, Lesaka’s role had moved away from organizing attacks and focused on keeping tabs on weapons caches and the activities of members in hiding.

In May, the Interior Ministry had erroneously announced that the head of ETA’s military operations was Oroitz Gurruchaga, another member who was arrested in France. With Sunday’s detention, it appears that the real military chief of the terrorist group has been apprehended.

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