- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 16, 2002

MADRID Spanish authorities seized an arsenal of weapons and explosives and thwarted a major terrorist attack the Basque separatist group ETA planned to carry out against an upcoming summit of Latin American and European leaders, officials said yesterday.

Two suspected ETA members arrested on Tuesday had stashed nearly 440 pounds of explosives, along with detonators, automatic weapons and false license plates at an apartment in the center of the capital, according to the Interior Ministry's top official for the Madrid region, Francisco Javier Ansuategui.

"It was a real arsenal," Mr. Ansuategui said at a news conference with the heads of the National Police and Civil Guard.

"These two persons didn't want to scare," he said. "They wanted to kill and to kill with all its consequences."

The summit, which will bring together more than 40 leaders from Europe, Latin America and the Caribbean, is to begin tomorrow.

Such an attack on an international gathering would be a departure from the traditional methods of ETA, which has targeted mostly Spanish police and government figures during its 33-year campaign of shootings and bombings.

ETA's attacks are usually well-focused and calibrated designed to kill a particular individual or to draw attention.

On May 1, an explosion near a soccer stadium hours before a European Champions League semifinal match injured 17 persons. An April 22 bombing outside the office building of Repsol YPF energy company had caused no casualties.

ETA's deadliest attack was a 1987 bombing in an underground parking lot at a Barcelona supermarket. It killed 21 persons and wounded 40.

Mr. Ansuategui said the explosives were found in an apartment on Piamonte Street, near the National and Supreme courts. An 88-pound charge was discovered in the outskirts of the capital in a stolen car linked to the detainees.

Mr. Ansuategui said a third person involved in the preparations had escaped arrest, and he vowed that Spanish authorities "will not rest until they detain this person and all those who have participated in the activities of this command."

The Madrid municipality has said more than 1,000 police will patrol the capital to provide security.

ETA classified as a terrorist group by Spain, the European Union and the United States has been fighting since the late 1960s to carve an independent Basque state from lands straddling northern Spain and southwest France. Its campaign of bombings and shootings has left more than 800 people dead.

ETA has been disrupted lately with crackdowns by Spanish police with the help of French colleagues across the border.

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