Police seize Eta military chief in night-time raid

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The military leader of the Basque separatist group Eta has been arrested in France. Gari-koitz Aspiazu Rubina, known by his alias Txeroki, or Cherokee, was seized in a house with an unnamed female Eta suspect at 3.30am yesterday in the French Pyrennees near the Spanish border, officials from the two countries said.

A string of senior Eta figures have been captured recently; in May, the main Eta commander, Francisco Javier Lopez Pena, was arrested in Bordeaux. "Today Eta is weaker and Spanish democracy is stronger," the Spanish Prime Minister, Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, said. "Eta has not lost its capacity to attack, it hasn't lost its capacity to hurt, but it has been dealt a hard blow."

The French President, Nicolas Sarkozy, hailed the arrest and praised the co-operation between Spanish and French security forces.

Mr Aspiazu, 35, is suspected of killing two Spanish civil guard surveillance police in the French town of Capbreton in 2007. Spanish security forces also blame him for ordering a car bombing at Madrid airport in 2006 which killed two people. He faces trial in France for the Capbreton killings but Madrid wants him to stand trial in Spain first, then be returned to serve any French sentence, a Spanish state prosecution official said.