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Spanish, French police detain leaders of terrorist group

Thursday, July 18, 2002

MADRID, Spain (AP) -- Spanish and French police arrested 14 suspected leftist radicals Thursday, including the Paris-based leadership of an underground group that has targeted Spain.

Interior Minister Angel Acebes told reporters the arrests were a "very hard blow" for GRAPO, whose previous leaders were apprehended two years ago in the French capital.

Eight of the suspects were detained in Paris, five in Madrid and one the Basque city of Vitoria.

The arrests were part of a coordinated action ordered by top anti-terrorist judges of France, Jean-Louis Bruguiere, and Spain, Baltasar Garzon, officials said. The arrests came several months after the two judges set up an information-sharing agreement.

Among the Paris detainees were Fernando Hierro Chomon, alleged leader of the group's military wing, and Marcos Martin Ponce, accused of responsibility for the Nov. 17, 2000, slaying of a policeman.

The two suspects, along with Paris suspect Gema Rodriguez Miguel, were planning attacks on armored money trucks, police said.

In Paris, an Interior Ministry official said agents from the National Anti-Terrorist Division had been monitoring the eight people -- four men and four women -- for several weeks and made the arrests in five separate places around Paris.

GRAPO -- a Spanish acronym for October First Anti-fascist Resistance Group -- takes its name from the Oct. 1, 1975, when it launched its first major attack. It killed four policemen in reprisal for the execution of two suspected Basque separatists and three anarchists belonging to FRAP, a predecessor group of GRAPO.

GRAPO has killed some 60 people in Spain in sporadic bombings and shootings.


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