- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 9, 2008


Spain’s government is investigating links between the Basque separatist group ETA and Colombian FARC rebels, following reports by Colombian officials that the groups have trained together and jointly planned assassinations and bombings.

“We need to investigate because these connections, this alliance, between terrorist groups, as are ETA and FARC, are a reality,” said Spanish Chief Prosecutor Javier Zaragoza.

He submitted a 17-page report to Spain’s highest anti-terrorism court last week accusing ETA members of instructing the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) in explosives and car-bomb techniques at rebel camps in the Colombian jungle.

The report, quoted by the Spanish news agency EFE, also mentioned accusations that ETA and FARC may have planned the assassination of top Colombian officials visiting Spain and that the groups also smuggled cocaine into Europe.

ETA, whose acronym stands for Homeland and Liberty in the Basque language, is responsible for more than 800 deaths in Spain during its 40-year struggle for Basque independence.

It has at various times been linked with Cuba and other revolutionary movements in Latin America, according to the U.S. State Department.

FARC has similarly fought a half-century-old war against the Colombian government and has extensive international connections.

Three explosives specialists of the Irish Republican Army, who were contracted by FARC to teach bomb-making techniques, were arrested in Colombia in 2001.

Spain’s most recent investigations have targeted five Basque terrorist suspects, who have been accused of “implementing training courses” and “providing information in the handling of explosives” at rebel camps in Colombia’s southern province of Narino between 2003 and 2007.

The suspects include Martin Capa, Inaki Dominguez Atxalandaburo, Jose Ignacio Urbieta, Jose Angel Urtiaga Martinez and Arturo Cubillas Fontan.

All five individuals are currently outside of Spain, according to Spanish police, who report that Mr. Fontan lives in Venezuela and the rest are thought to be in Cuba.

Spanish National Court Judge Eloy Velasco has said that the suspect list could grow as “others may appear responsible for these deeds during the course of the investigations.”

Judge Velasco has said he will issue international arrest warrants once the police investigation is completed.

Colombian authorities alerted the Spanish government about ETA’s contacts with FARC in July.

Mr. Zaragoza traveled to Bogota at the time and met with Colombian counterparts to review the evidence.

The evidence mainly comes from 115 e-mails found in the computer of FARC chieftain Raul Reyes, who was killed during a Colombian police raid on a FARC camp in Ecuador in March.

Colombian Defense Minister Juan Manuel Santos has said the e-mails indicate that FARC tried to seek assistance from ETA in a plan to assassinate former Colombian President Andres Pastrana during his visit to Spain in 2003.

“There is one e-mail in which they are looking at the possibility of ETA collaborating in an assassination attempt in Madrid five years ago,” says Mr. Santos, who also claims that FARC’s hit list included a former Colombian ambassador to Spain, Noemi Sanin.

FARC is the oldest Marxist revolutionary group in Latin America. It gained international notoriety as a result of the July rescue from FARC captivity by Colombian security forces of three American hostages and former Colombian presidential candidate Ingrid Betancourt.

Several Latin American leaders, including Presidents Hugo Chavez of Venezuela and Rafael Correa of Ecuador, have been supportive of FARC. They claim that the documents from Mr. Reyes’ computer are fabrications.

Mr. Zaragoza has said that the contacts between ETA and FARC have been corroborated through evidence recovered from three Basque terrorists arrested recently in France.

A Spanish television documentary aired in June includes a video in which FARC leader Juan Santrich, responsible for the group’s political relations, expresses support for ETA. “It’s time to cease the savage repression, police persecution, the prison perversity and all other perfidy which the Spanish state makes fall on the Basque people,” Mr. Santrich says.

The documentary aired in the prime-time show, “Informe Semanal,” Spain’s equivalent to CBS’ “60 Minutes.” It includes interviews with FARC defectors, who claim that they participated in 20-day courses given by ETA instructors. The instructors were helping to form an urban guerrilla unit to operate in Colombia’s capital, Bogota.

“They taught us how to handle C-4, a plastic explosive that is widely available in Venezuela, because it’s used in the oil industry. This would give us a great advantage for operations in cities where we could use and store the explosive in far smaller quantities than dynamite,” one defector said.

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