New ETA leader arrested

New ETA ‘number one’ falls 21 days after the capture of previous boss of Basque terrorist organization

Twenty one days following the arrest of the head of Garikoitz Aspiazu known as Txeroki the presumed head of ETA the Basque terrorist organization three further significant arrests have taken place in France including the arrest of Aitzol Iriondo, known as Gurbitz and Balak. His arrest together with two other significant members of ETA was confirmed last night by the French Home Office Minister, Michèle Alliot-Marie.

Iriondo and Txeroki are the two principal suspects believed to be responsible for the assassination of two Spanish Civil Guards in Capbreton, France last year.

Aitzol Iriondo, was born in 1977 in San Sebastian and lived in a nearby town called Lasarte. Like a lot of his ETA colleagues he began his terrorist activities as a street activist taking part in various acts of street vandalism (kale borroka) during the 90’s. He arrived at the top of the terrorist organization whilst still a teenager and escaped to France in 2002 where he quickly learnt to manufacture explosives and also used his knowledge of information technology to help ETA.

Iriondo was linked to the assassination of the socialist deputy mayor of Lasarte in March 2001 when a bullet case belonging to the same weapon that was used to kill Elespe was found in a house where he had lived. Between the end of 2006 and the beginning of 2007 he is believed to have instructed new members of ETA in the use of explosives and weapons and in information technology.

Txeroki used Iriondo as his right hand man in 2007 after the fall of José Antonio Aranibar Almandoz – the then military boss of ETA – who was captured during the hand over of a van containing 165 kilos kilos of explosives.

Following this arrest the role of Aranibar was assumed by Iriondo who from then onwards carried out the instructions given by Txeroki and also contacted ETA cells.

One of his fingerprints was found in a car bomb which was placed outside an office belonging to the Ministry of Defence on 9th September this year but which did not go off.

Two other presumed members of ETA were also arrested along with Iriondo – Eneko Zarrabeitia Salterain who is believed to have provided ETA cells with weapons and explosives and is also believed to have been Iriondos right hand man. It is believed that he could have taken over the top position in ETA after the fall of Iriondo. Aitor Artetxe, an ex member of the Vizcaya cell was also arrested.

After the arrest of Txeroki, Iriondo assumed the top position in ETA and became the most wanted member of ETA for the security services.