ETA former leader Josu Ternera arrested after 16 years on the run
The former political leader of the Basque separatist group ETA has been arrested in France after more than 16 years on the run, Spanish officials said Thursday.
Josu Ternera, whose real name is Jose Antonio Urrutikoetxea Bengoetxea, has been wanted by Spanish authorities since 2002 and is accused of being involved in a deadly car bomb attack on police barracks in Zaragoza in 1987, which killed 11 people.
“The militant of the terrorist organization ETA, wanted by the Spanish and French police services, has been detained in the town of Sallanches,” the Spanish Interior Ministry said in a statement Thursday.
The arrest was part of a joint Spanish-French police operation, it added.
ETA, which stands for “Euskadi Ta Askatasuna” or “Basque homeland and freedom,” was founded in 1959 in response to the frustration felt by Basques during the repressive regime of General Francisco Franco. Its aim was to gain independence from Spain and establish a state in the north of Spain and southwest France.
During its half-century campaign for independence ETA killed more than 800 people.
In 2018 it announced its full dissolution and said in a statement that it apologized to the families of its victims, adding that it accepted “direct responsibility” for its crimes.
The Spanish government said it would continue to pursue former members of ETA despite its self-declared dissolution.
The group carried out a number of political assassinations and bombings during Franco’s regime, which it continued after the dictator’s death. In 1973, the group assassinated Spanish Prime Minister Luis Carrero Blanco in a car-bomb attack and also received worldwide condemnation in 1987 after car bombing a Barcelona supermarket, killing 21 people, including a pregnant woman and two children.