Seventeen years after he fled from Spain, a Basque terror suspect has been arrested in Liverpool, where he was living under a false identity.
Raul Angel Fuentes Villota, 56, an alleged Eta member, was arrested in a joint operation between Merseyside police, MI6 and Spanish police, the Spanish Interior Ministry confirmed.
Villota has been wanted since 1995 and is allegedly responsible for several murders.
Originally from Bilbao, he has lived with false documents in the UK and has been “waiting for instructions” from Eta, according to the Spanish Interior Ministry.
The ministry says Villota was recruited in 1990 into a part of Eta known as the Matalaz Command. He and other alleged Eta members were arrested in June 1991 after a shootout and accused of trying to blow up a police officer’s car in the Basque province of Vizcaya. Villota was in custody for four years and released in June 1995.
An arrest warrant was issued by Spain’s Central Criminal Court in September 1995 after he failed to make a scheduled court appearance, but by then he had fled the country.
Merseyside Police said it was working with the Spanish Embassy to expedite Villota’s extradition.
A spokeswoman said he would appear in court in London “as soon as possible”. She confirmed: “Merseyside Police has arrested this morning a 56-year-old Spanish national who was wanted in connection with historic terrorism offences in Spain in 1991.
“Following a period of imprisonment he has since failed to adhere to the conditions of his release and subsequently a European Arrest Warrant was issued for his arrest and return to prison.”
According to reports, another suspected Eta member, Inaki Imaz, was arrested by police in Bayonne, France, on Thursday.
The separatist movement Eta – standing for Euskadi Ta Askatasuna, or “Basque Homeland and Freedom” – has claimed more than 800 lives.
Faced with waning public support and weakened by the arrests of its leaders, it announced a year ago that it would give up its armed struggle – though not its quest for independence.