Fri, Jul 13, 2007 - Page 6 News List

Madrid says alleged ETA car-bomb plot thwarted

NY TIMES NEWS SERVICE , MADRID

A man thought to be a member of the Basque separatist group ETA who was arrested in Spain this week was preparing a car-bomb attack against a public building, Interior Minister Alfredo Perez Rubalcaba said on Wednesday.

Rubalcaba told reporters that the suspect, Aritz Arginzoniz Zubiarre, who was detained at a bus station in the port city of Santander, belonged to an ETA cell that intended to bomb a parking lot near a public building during "the next few days." He did not specify the type of building or the location of the intended attack.

Arginzoniz was caught carrying a revolver, false documents, and two timers for triggering bombs after he aroused suspicion by leaving his rucksack unattended on the bus station floor, the government said.

The Interior Ministry said he identified himself to police officers as a member of ETA.

The authorities were hunting for his girlfriend, Saioa Sanchez Iturregi, who they believe was involved in the plot, the newspaper El Pais reported.

More than 12 ETA members have been arrested in a series of police operations since the group formally ended a 15-month ceasefire on June 5. In practice, the truce ended when a bomb planted by ETA killed two men at a Madrid airport on Dec. 30.

The government, which has highlighted its hard line on ETA after a failed attempt to negotiate peace with the group, said that three car-bomb attacks had been thwarted in recent weeks.

"ETA is going to keep on trying to attack, but we are going to keep on trying to make sure they don't succeed," Rubalcaba said.

On Wednesday, the Spanish government said the French authorities had detained two other members of ETA. An Interior Ministry spokeswoman said two armed men were arrested on Wednesday while driving a stolen van near the French town of Angouleme.

Last week, Rubalcaba said another car bombing had been averted when the French police arrested three suspected ETA members driving a stolen car near the Spanish border on July 2. The car was packed with explosives.

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