In collaboration with the Spanish Guardia Civil and within the framework of Operation Nerín, officers of the French General Directorate for Internal Security (DGSI) arrested Mikel Irastorza on Saturday morning in the French town of Ascain, located in the Atlantic Pyrenees, Department, the current leader of the terrorist group ETA who had been on the run from justice.
Mikel Irastorza Artola, born in San Sebastian (Guipuzcoa) and aged 41, acted as leader of the terrorist group ETA from its ‘Political Arm’, controlling all its activities and heading up the leadership structure of ETA. He held this position for over a year; more specifically, since the French DGSI and the Spanish Guardia Civil arrested David Pla and Iratxe Sorzábal on 22 September 2015 within the framework of Operation Pardines, according to the Spanish government.
Mikel Irastorza Artola was the national leader of EKIN, the structure used by the terrorist group ETA as a tool for applying its political-military strategy and lending political leadership and instrumentalization to the organizational system led by the terrorist group.
The whereabouts of Mikel Irastorza had been unknown since 2008. Since then, he has held various positions within ETA until finally assuming leadership of the terrorist group.
Besides the leader of the terrorist group ETA, two other people were arrested in this operation for their alleged collaboration with the terrorist group: a man of Spanish nationality and a woman of French nationality, who were harboring Mikel Irastorza and own the house where the terrorist was arrested on Saturday morning.
On 20 October 2011, the websites of the daily papers Gara and Berria published a statement from ETA in which the terrorist group announced the ‘definitive ceasefire of its armed activities’, thus giving rise to the commencement of a process to re-structure its ‘apparatus’. In this regard, on 20 July 2014, the terrorist group ETA publicly announced that it was carrying out an internal restructuring process that provided for the decommissioning of its ‘logistics-military’ framework, the creation of a ‘techno-logistical’ structure, responsible for sealing its arms caches, and strengthening its ‘Political Arm’, without this leading to the abolishment of its structures necessary for internal operations.
According to the Spanish government, Operation Nerín, which was jointly carried out by the Spanish Guardia Civil and the French DGSI, is a harsh blow to the structures of ETA as it represents a loss of leadership within the terrorist group and elimination of its management structure responsible for controlling the management of the weapons and explosives arsenal that the terrorist group still maintains and uses in its attempts to achieve its strategic objectives.
“Once again, international police cooperation between the Spanish Guardia Civil and the DGSI has dealt another blow to the terrorist group and will make it very difficult for ETA to survive as an influential player on the political and social scene in the Basque Country, Navarre and the South of France,” the Spanish government said.
Operation Nerín forms part of the investigations being made by the Spanish Guardia Civil into the clandestine structures of the terrorist group ETA and represents another major step towards its definitive dismantling.
The operation remains ongoing.