On Sunday, police in southwestern France apprehended Oroitz Gurruchaga, the military leader of the Basque separatist group ETA, and his aide Xabier Aramburu. They were driving a stolen car with a falsified license plate. Gurruchaga, 30, joined ETA in 2008, and quickly rose to prominence in the group. Aramburu, 32, has been hiding in France since 2010 when an arrest warrant was issued for him in Spain for involvement in several bombing attacks.
In the 45 years or so that ETA has been active, they have killed 829 people in bombings and shootings. Their goal is the establishment of a separate Basque nation straddling the Pyrenees Mountains and consisting of several provinces taken from both Spain and France. They had strong Basque support in the early years, until changes in Spanish law following the death of dictator Francisco Franco and European Union guarantees of autonomy and preservation of their culture and language began changing attitudes in the two Basque regions. ETA has been severely depleted in recent years, partly because of disinterest in the cause and partly because there are few places for the members to hide. This is the second high-profile ETA arrest carried out in France, the first involving five bombers who were captured during a routine traffic stop.
Last October, ETA announced that it was laying down its weapons and disbanding. That did not void any existing warrants.