French police detained the suspected military leader of the armed Basque separatist group ETA, and his alleged second—in—charge in southern France early Thursday, Spanish Interior Minister Alfredo Perez Rubalcaba said.

Mikel Kabikoitz Carrera Sarobe alias “Ata”, 36, was held with two other suspects, a man and a woman, in a flat in Bayonne near the Spanish border.

Carrera Sarobe was ETA’s fifth military leader to be captured in two years. The group, which is held responsible for more than 820 killings since 1968, has become increasingly weakened by police crackdowns and loss of support.

Carrera Sarobe, who is suspected of direct involvement in the killings of five people, was believed to have headed ETA’s military wing since its previous leader Ibon Gogeaskoetxea was captured in February.

The man who was detained with Carrera Sarobe was identified as his second—in—charge Arkaitz Agirregabiria del Barrio, who is suspected of involvement in a shoot—out that claimed the life of a French police officer near Paris in March.

The three suspects were armed, but did not resist arrest, police said.

A fourth person, who was believed to be a collaborator of ETA, and his French girlfriend were also arrested in the village of Urrugne.

Police searched several addresses, seizing pistols and computer materials. The arrests were planned jointly by Spanish and French police.

The detainees constituted “the nucleus of ETA’s military structure,” Basque regional Interior Minister Rodolfo Ares said.

Miren Legorburu, a spokeswoman for Basque separatist parties, criticized the arrests, saying that “repression” was not the way to solve the Basque conflict.

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