French police have arrested Oroitz Gurruchaga Gogorza, the military leader of the Basque separatist group ETA, Agence France Presse reported.
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Gogorza was apprehended along with a man said to be his deputy, Xabier Aramburu, in an operation carried out with Spanish forces, in the south-western French village of Cauna, Spanish authorities said in a statement.
Sunday’s arrests bring to 15 the number of people being held on suspicion of ETA links, since the group laid down arms in October, 2011, AFP reported.
Gurruchaga, 30, and Aramburu, 32, were armed with handguns, and were traveling in a stolen vehicle with false license plates, according to the Associated Press.
A statement from the Spanish Interior Ministry said:
"The presence of both men in southern France could indicate they were setting up meetings to recruit new ETA members."
Spain believes that Gurruchaga joined ETA in 2008, but quickly climbed the organizations' ranks to become its “military and recruiting chief,” AFP reported.
ETA is blamed for more than 800 killings during its decades-long battle for an independent Basque state.
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Last year ETA’s then military commander, Alejandro Zorbaran Arriola, also known as "Xarla," was arrested in northern France, along with three other suspected militants.
Despite its announced disarmament, ETA has not surrendered weapons or disbanded.