Police swoop stops Eta plot to bomb international summit

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The Spanish authorities said yesterday that they had thwarted a terrorist attack by the Basque separatist group Eta, planned to coincide with a summit of Latin American and European leaders.

Two suspected Eta members arrested on Tuesday had stored nearly 200kg of explosives, as well as detonators, automatic weapons and false licence plates in an apartment in the centre of the capital, Francisco Javier Ansuategui, the Interior Ministry's top official for the Madrid region, said.

"It was a real arsenal," Mr Ansuategui told a news conference with the heads of the National Police and Civil Guard. "These two persons didn't want to scare. They wanted to kill and to kill with all its consequences."

Mr Ansuategui did not elaborate on whether he meant an attack on the leaders themselves or the venue. The summit, which will be attended by more than 40 leaders from Europe, Latin America and the Caribbean, begins tomorrow.

An attack on an international gathering, however, would represent a departure from the traditional methods of the group, which has mostly aimed its attacks at Spanish police and government figures.

Eta ­ which is classified as a terrorist group by Spain, the EU, and the United States ­ has been fighting since the late 1960s to carve an independent Basque state out of lands straddling northern Spain and southwest France. Its campaign of terror has left more than 800 people dead.

Mr Ansuategui said the explosives were found in an flat near the National and Supreme Courts. A 40kg charge was also found in the outskirts of the capital, in a stolen car linked to the detainees. (AP)