After the March 11 terror attacks in Madrid were blamed on the Basque separatist group ETA but turned out to be the work of a group thought to have links with al-Qaeda it was comforting to think ETA might be a spent force. But despite a series of sweeping arrests in the past decade, cross-border raids in Spain and France this month uncovered evidence that the organization is far from broken. Last week Spanish forces arrested five ETA members after Oct. 3 sweeps netted 18 Basque militants, and found enormous caches of arms, munitions and nearly a ton of explosives.
Investigators say the most significant arrests in the joint operations in northern Spain and southwestern France were those of Mikel (Antza) Albizu Iriarte and his companion Soledad Iparragirre (Anboto). Antza is alleged to head ETA's political underground wing; Anboto allegedly assumed leadership of ETA's commando forces, and was responsible for several killings, according to Spanish
One French investigator with long ETA experience says the group "will find it harder than ever to strike now that its leaders and arms have been hit again." But he also notes ETA has continually bounced back from previous blows and says discovery of such a mighty arsenal suggests it had been preparing for more terror.
Opening the Door
EUROPEAN UNION Turkey 's hopes of joining the E.U. received another boost as the European Commission recommended the start of accession talks with Ankara a decision that must be ratified by E.U leaders in December. Despite stringent conditions imposed to ensure that Turkey does not backpedal on political and legal reform, Turkish PM Recep Tayyip Erdogan was confident the negotiations, which could take up to 15 years, would conclude successfully. "We consider the European Union a community of values, not a Christian club," he said. The Commission also set a date of January 2007 for the accession of Bulgaria and Romania.
FRANCE Indonesia put its diplomatic missions around the world on heightened security alert after a bomb exploded outside its embassy in Paris , injuring 10 people. The world's largest Muslim nation, Indonesia has suffered a number of recent attacks on its soil by Islamic militants linked to al-Qaeda.
POLAND Defense Minister Jerzy Szmajdzinski said that Warsaw would set a date for the withdrawal of its 2,500 troops in Iraq after an Oct. 15 parliamentary vote of confidence in the government. Szmajdzinski earlier surprised coalition allies by announcing that a pullout would take place by the end of 2005. Surveys show that more than 70% of Poles are opposed to their country's military presence in Iraq.
One More Time
SUDAN Peace talks between southern rebels and the government aimed at ending 21 years of civil war resumed in the Kenyan capital of Nairobi. The two sides were to finalize details of a peace plan they had already agreed in principle. The two-year-long negotiations have been overshadowed by the separate conflict in Sudan 's western Darfur region.
Back in the Saddle
AUSTRALIA Prime Minister John Howard said he was "humbled" after winning a fourth term in office. Early results showed his conservative coalition taking more than 52% of the vote, increasing its parliamentary majority.