Four suspects believed to be among the most wanted members of the Basque separatist group ETA have been captured by police.
A man and a woman were seized after officers stopped a French-registered van loaded with ten kilograms of explosives in the northern Spanish village of Bermillo de Sayago. The van’s driver then fled the scene in a stolen patrol car, and headed for nearby Portugal.
In a town just over the border he linked up with a woman in a second vehicle. It was there that both were arrested by Portuguese police. One suspect has already been identified as Iraxte Yanez.
It comes just after Spain raised its security alert level, as it assumed the rotating EU presidency.
The country’s interior minister Alfredo Perez Rubalcaba said the government was expecting the separatist group to be more active.
“We know that ETA was preparing something and what’s happened in the last couple of days shows that we were right,” he told a press conference.
Meanwhile in France, another two suspects were seized in a forested area near the city of Clermont-Ferrand. Authorities say the couple were trying to get access to a weapons stash.
Over the past year police in Spain and France have stepped up efforts to end ETA’s four-decade campaign of violence, arresting some 70 suspects.