French police on Wednesday arrested a top ETA member allegedly linked to a planned missile attack on then Spanish prime minister Jose Maria Aznar in 2001, officials said.
Juan Maria Mugica was detained near the city of Pau in southwestern France in a joint French-Spanish operation, Spain's interior ministry said in a statement.
Mugica had escaped a police raid in 2010 in Lizarta in Spain's Basque region. The operation dismantled an ETA cell, of which he was member, suspected of transporting material for attacks.
Leaders of the armed Basque separatist group had ordered the cell to launch a missile against a plane that was transporting Aznar to Bilbao, the interior ministry said.
The cell transported the missile for the attack from France to the Spanish town of Hernani but the attack never took place.
Aznar, who served as conservative Popular Party prime minister between 1996 and 2004, has frequently been an ETA target.
Aznar survived an ETA car bombing in Madrid in 1995 when he was leader of the opposition. The car's shielding protected him but one woman was killed and another 15 people were wounded.
ETA announced in October last year the "definitive" end to a campaign of bombings and shootings to try to carve out an independent Basque homeland in northern Spain and southwestern France.
But the group has not bowed to Spanish and French demands that it disarm and disband.
Blamed for more than 800 killings in four decades of a campaign to create a Basque homeland in northern Spain and southwestern France, the group has not committed an attack on Spanish soil since August 2009.© ANP/AFP