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Basque separatist arrested as Spain confronts region's future

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Bob Edme/AP

(Read caption) A member of the armed Basque group ETA has his face covered by a masked policeman as they arrive back at the house where Spanish and French authorities arrested him along with three other ETA members in a Bordeaux flat, in southwestern France. ETA was blamed for killing a policeman in a car bombing last week in a Basque village, and claimed another car bombing on Sunday near Bilbao, both a part of about 20 recent attacks since ETA called off the ceasefire when peace talks with the government failed.

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In a setback for one of Europe's longest-running armed independence movements, the suspected chief of the Basque separatist group ETA was arrested earlier this week.

Francisco Javier Lopez Peña, who is also known as "Thierry," was seized in a raid in Bordeaux, France, by Spanish and French police late Tuesday night. Three other ETA suspects were also captured.

The ETA – "Euskadi ta Askatasuna," or "Basque Country and Freedom" in the Basque language – has waged a violent struggle for independence for 40 years. ETA has been labeled a terrorist organization, and Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero called the arrest "another important step in the victory of democracy against terror," reports the Associated Press.

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