A political leader of the Basque terrorist group ETA was arrested in France Thursday after 17 years on the run, according to the Spanish media.
Josu Ternera, with the real name Jose Antonio Urrutikoetxea, 68, was rounded up while he was leaving his house in French Alps, the Spanish daily El Pais reported, citing police and diplomatic sources.
Ternera has militated the terror group for half a century and was summoned to a Spanish court in 2002 for his involvement in the Zaragoza terror attack in Spain in 1987 which left 11 people dead.
Fugitive since then, Ternera did not appear before the judges.
He was the deputy leader of the EH Bildu Party — leftist, Basque nationalist and a pro-independence political coalition.
The operation — called Stolen Childhood to honor the six children victims of the Zaragoza attack — was jointly carried out by the Spanish and French intelligence services to nab Ternera.
Listed among the most wanted fugitives by Interpol, Ternera had also been sought with an arrest warrant issued by a Paris court which sentenced him to eight years in prison over the charge of terror group leadership on June 1, 2018.
Active since 1959, ETA has waged an armed struggle to establish an independent Basque state in northern Spain and southwest France. It is accused of killing at least 800 people and kidnapping dozens of others.
ETA, which announced that it would lay down its weapons in April 2017, is listed as a terrorist organization by the EU and U.S.
It carried out the deadliest operations from the 1970s to the 1990s, using a series of bombings, kidnappings and assassinations to terrorize the Spanish population and politicians into ceding independence to the Basque Country, located in northern Spain and southern France.
The group never met its political targets, and by 2009, a survey carried out by the University of the Basque Country found that only one percent of Basque respondents said they totally supported ETA.
The last victim of the terror group was a French policeman in 2010, and in 2017, ETA announced its definitive disarmament.
Although the group’s dissolution has been widely anticipated, Spanish news agency EFE reported that the country’s anti-terrorist authorities have said that they hoped for more.