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Francisco Javier López Peña
Born February 14, 1958 (1958-02-14) (age 52)
Galdácano Biscay, Spain [1]
Other names Thierry
Ethnicity Basque
Known for Military Chief[2]
Term 1991 - 2008

Francisco Javier López Peña alias Thierry, (14 February 1958 – ) is an ETA member. He headed the political leadership of the group. On the 20th of May, 2008, López Peña was arrested in Bordeaux, France during a joint operation between French and Spanish police officials.


ETA activity

López Peña has been on the run from law enforcement since 1983. On March 18, 1991, following the arrest of Jesus Arcauz Arana ("Josu of Mondragon") in Biarritz, France, the leader of the military apparatus of ETA, López Peña moved into the upper echelons of ETA's leadership.

In 2006, he is said to be the responsible for calling off the negotiations with the Spanish government by ordering the Barajas Airport bombing on December 30, 2006. In this regard, López Peña has been usually described as hawkish. [3][4]

Furthermore, the recent spate of attacks in early 2008 and the killing of a Civil Guard member was supposed to have occurred at Lopen Peña's behest[citation needed].


López Peña's first tryst with the law occurred on February 14, 1983 when he was arrested in Bayonne, France. He was charged with criminal conspiracy and sent to prison.

On July 8, 2005 he was sentenced, in absentia, by the Correctional Tribunal of Paris (France) to 8 years' imprisonment for criminal conspiracy.

On February 5, 2007 Central Examining Court No. 5 of the National High Court ordered his search, arrest and incarceration in prison for collaboration with terrorist or armed bands. [5]

On his arrest on May 20, 2008 López Peña was in a Bordeaux apartment with three other ETA members, including Ainhoa Ozaeta Mendiondo, Igor Suberbiola and Jon Salaberria . They were reported to have not having resisted arrest.[3] When police raided the flat in Bouscat, which had been under surveillance for a week, they found two handguns, a homemade rocket-launcher and several detonators which were seized. [6] In all there were six arrests including Angel Arrauzpide-Cruz, considered by police to be the head of an ETA reservist cell,[6] and a former mayor of a Basque city arrested earlier in the year, who is said to have led police to López Peña[citation needed].

On Monday May 26, 2008, López Peña along with four others arrested in the same week were remanded to a court in Paris. The group are expected to be placed under judicial investigation for "criminal association with a terrorist organization."[4]


Political impact

While it is still too early to tell what impact this arrest will have on ETA's operations and the Spanish government response, it is described as a major setback to the group.[7]

On May 27, the Spanish Interior Minister Alfredo Perez Rubalcaba said the state is stronger and ETA is crippled. Consequently, he announced plans to recruit more police for the security services in dealing with ETA. However, he also warned that while the state is "stronger than ever," the capacity for ETA to "harm us a lot" still existed. In speaking before the Interior Committee at the Spanish Parliament he hailed the arrest of López Peña as a critical blow to the group.

On May 30, ETA released a statement exclaiming despite the arrest "the fight for an independent Basque homeland will continue". The statement, sent to Basque newspaper Gara, read "If there is no adequate attention to the root of the problem, the conflict will persist." It went on to state, "they (French and Spanish government) will be forcing us to keep on fighting."[8]

International Reactions

Across the spectrum the news of López Peña's arrest was cheered.[9]


A statement from the French Prime Minister's called López Peña "one of the historic leaders" of ETA, and added that he had been wanted by police for 20 years.

The statement also said "The success of this operation illustrates again the remarkable quality of the anti-terrorist cooperation between France and Spain." [10]


Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero hailed the arrests as "certainly another important step in the victory of democracy against terror." [11] He also added that the raid "has delivered a severe blow to the leadership of the terrorist group Eta." [12]

Spanish Interior Minister Alfredo Pérez Rubalcaba told a press conference at the Spanish Embassy in Dakar, Senegal and called the arrests "the hardest set back" ever for ETA. [13] He went on to say "This is not just another police operation in the sense that one of the detained, Francisco Javier López Peña, is in all likelihood at this moment the person with most political and military weight in the terrorist group ETA." [10] Upon his immediate return to Madrid, precipitated by the first high-ranking ETA arrest in 6 years, Rubalcaba told a press conference that he believed these leaders "are behind or even ordered the latest killings." Rubalcaba called the arrests a big victory in Spain's decades-old battle against ETA, "We are closer to the end, but this is not the end." [14] He added "The four had a decisive participation in the attacks in Barajas and Castellon," and hence ""It is an operation of an enormous importance." Amongst the other detained was also Luis Ignacio Iruretagoyena. Of whom Rubalcaba said, "Iruretagoyena is considered by police to be the maximum expert in the making of bombs within ETA." [15]



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