Spain braced for Eta backlash

Spain is on full security alert for retaliation from Eta terrorists after the group’s leader was arrested this week.

Spain is on full security alert for retaliation from Eta terrorists after the group’s leader was arrested this week.

Interior minister Alfredo Perez Rubalcaba said today they were aiming to stop any likely action by the Basque separatist group.

He also confirmed that Mikel de Garikoitz Aspiazu was actually Eta’s top leader, in charge of overall strategy as well as ordering attacks.

Police arrested Aspiazu on Monday in the French town of Cauterets, near the border with Spain, along with a woman who is also a suspected Eta member.

Aspiazu, whose alias is Txeroki, rose to the top position after the arrest of Francisco Javier Lopez Pena, then believed to be ETA's boss, in May near Bordeaux, France, the minister said.

“Txeroki ended up in charge of everything – the political apparatus, the so-called military apparatus.

The one who ordered killings was Txeroki,” Perez Rubalcaba said.

Spanish and French officials say Aspiazu is a top suspect in the shooting of two Spanish civil guards in December in the French resort town of Capbreton.

“We have to be prepared. One of these days Eta will try to show it is not weak, that even though Txeroki has been arrested, it can still act,” Perez Rubalcaba said.

Eta has killed more than 800 people since the late 1960s in its battle to create an independent Basque homeland in northern Spain and south-west France.

It declared what it called a permanent cease-fire in March 2006 and began peace talks with the government of Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero. But the negotiations went nowhere and Eta detonated a car bomb at Madrid airport in December 2006, killing two people.

Aspiazu and Lopez Pena are believed to have been opposed to the truce from the outset, and Aspiazu is described as having given the order to end it with the airport bombing.

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