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Spain arrests seven alleged ETA collaborators

Source: AFP - Tue 28th Sep 2010

Seven alleged members of an offshoot of Basque separatist group ETA were arrested early Tuesday in the Spanish Basque country, Spanish media reported.

The seven were said to belong to the radical Askapena group, which is considered as the foreign propaganda branch of the armed organisation, banned as a terror group by the European Union and the United States.

No official confirmation of the arrests was available early Tuesday.

ETA is blamed for 829 deaths in its 42-year campaign for independence for the Basque region of northern Spain and southwestern France.

It announced a "permanent ceasefire" in March 2006, and shortly afterwards Spain's Socialist government said it was launching tentative peace talks with the outfit.

But in December 2006 the group set off a bomb at a car park at Madrid's airport, killing two men from Ecuador, and in June 2007 it formally called off its ceasefire citing a lack of concessions by the government in peace talks.

Since then, the government has taken a hard line against the group and its political wing, Batasuna, arresting dozens of members.

Spanish officials on Sunday rejected ETA's latest statement that it is ready to observe a permanent ceasefire in its battle for an independent homeland.

Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero made no mention of the ETA statement at a rally in Zaragoza but a government source quoted by the website of the daily El Mundo dismissed it as a "waste of time".

"The only thing we're waiting for is a final end to violence" the source added.

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