Basque exiles set for Spain return

Around 100 fugitives from ETA said Saturday they will return to the Spanish Basque country from southwestern France as the considerably weakened separatist group moves towards a historic disarmament.

Basque exiles set for Spain return
Members of the International Verification Commission (IVC) being handed documents by masked members of ETA in an undisclosed location in January 2014. Photo: Naiz Info/AFP.

Earlier this month western Europe's last major violent separatist movement said it would put its arsenal of weapons "out of operational use," more than two years after announcing a definitive end to armed activity.

"To continue the process of resolution, it is necessary to bring all prisoners and exiles back home," said a statement from ETA read out Saturday in the French Basque village of Arcangues.

"We will begin to walk the streets of our hometowns. You will see us back in the streets and squares of our villages of origin."

ETA said last year that it counted 500 to 600 exiles around the world, including about 150 in France.

The group has also called for the release of some 500 of its members who are held in French and Spanish prisons, which has been a key sticking point in negotiations with Madrid.

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Three suspected jihadists held in Barcelona

A court in Spain on Monday remanded in custody three suspected members of Islamic State arrested last week in Barcelona, including an Algerian man who had fought for the Islamist group in Iraq.

Three suspected jihadists held in Barcelona
Archive photo of a suspected jihadist arrested near Barcelona. Photo: AFP

Spanish authorities began their investigation after becoming aware just before Christmas that the “potentially dangerous” Algerian man was in Spain, police said in a statement.   

The man, a “jihadist” who had fought for the Islamic State group in Iraq, was arrested at a building occupied by squatters in Barcelona's seaside neighbourhood of Barceloneta, the statement added.

Police detained two other Algerian men as part of the operation, one suspected of giving him “logistical support” in Spain and another described by police as has “acolyte”.

The operation was carried out in cooperation with European Union law enforcement agency Europol and the FBI, as well as the intelligence services of Spain and Algeria, the statement said.

The three men appeared before a court on Monday where the presiding judge ordered they be remanded in custody on suspicion of membership in a terrorist organisation.

Their arrest comes as the trial of three men accused of helping the jihadists behind the August 2017 attacks in Barcelona and a nearby town that killed 16 people is wrapping up at a court near Madrid.

The Islamic State group claimed responsibility for the attacks, one of which involved a van ramming people in the centre of Barcelona.   

While none of the three men on trial are charged with direct responsibility, they are in the dock for helping the attackers, who were all shot dead by police.