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Former ETA leader Josu Ternera arrested after 17 years on the run

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By Sinead Barry
Josu Ternera 2000
Josu Ternera 2000   -   Copyright  Reuters   -  

The most-wanted fugitive from the Basque separatist group ETA has been arrested after more than 16 years on the run, authorities say.

Jose Antonio Urrutikoetxea, also known as Josu Ternera, was arrested in France on Thursday, according to Spain's interior ministry.

He was the long-time leader of the ETA group that is estimated to have killed more than 850 people during a 50-year guerrilla campaign aimed at creating a Basque state in northern Spain and southwest France.

He has been on the run since 2002 and is wanted in Spain over his alleged involvement in a 1987 bombing of a police barracks in Zaragoza, which killed 11 people including six children.

The group declared that it had dissolved in May 2018.

After an international arrest warrant was issued by the Spanish government in 2002 for Ternera's involvement in the 1987 attack, the leader went into hiding.

Ternera was convicted of belonging to a terrorist group in 2017 and sentenced to eight years in prison.

The fugitive was tracked down and arrested by a combined effort of Spanish and French forces.