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Police swoop on ETA suspects

Weapons and explosives found

By CNN Madrid Bureau Chief Al Goodman


MADRID, Spain (CNN) -- Police have arrested two suspected Basque separatist operatives -- a man and a woman -- in a raid on a hostel in Madrid, confiscating weapons and explosives, the Spanish Interior Ministry says.

In what is being described as an ongoing operation, police have cordoned off and evacuated the area around the low-budget hotel and city hall, fearing more explosives may be inside, a spokeswoman for Spanish central government in Valencia said.

A powerful car bomb in northern Madrid February 9 injured at least 43 people. The Basque separatist group ETA claimed responsibility for the attack.

ETA stands for Euskadi ta Askatasuna, which in the Basque language of Euskara means Basque Homeland and Freedom.

Designated a terrorist group by the United States and the European Union, the group has been blamed for more than 800 deaths since 1968. About 400 ETA members are in prison.

About 2.5 million Basques live in the Pyrenees mountain region along the border between Spain and France -- where their ancestors have lived for 5,000 years.

Another half million live in France. Separatists want to establish a homeland encompassing the three provinces Spain officially recognizes as Basque plus another Spanish province, Navarra, and part of southern France.

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