MADRID — Spain's Interior Ministry said Tuesday that police have dealt a strong blow to the armed Basque separatist group ETA by arresting its top two leaders in an operation in the Pyrenees mountains region of France,
The ministry said in a statement that David Pla and Iratxe Sorzabal were detained in a country house in the western mountain town of Saint-Etienne-de-Baigorry, a few kilometers (miles) from the Spanish border, in a joint operation by French and Spanish police. They are wanted in both countries on terrorism charges.
It said the two are currently ETA's top leaders and also manage the group's arms and explosives stocks.
The house owner and another person present at the time were also arrested, but it was not clear on what charges.
ETA killed 829 people, including many police and politicians, in bombings and shootings during a four-decade campaign for an independent Basque homeland straddling Spain and France.
The group, which has been decimated by arrests, announced a permanent cease-fire in 2011 but has refused demands by Spanish officials to formally disarm.
The group has had its leadership dismantled by police several times in the past.
The ministry said Pla and Sorzabal had both served jail terms in either Spain or France in the past and are wanted in both countries over terrorism-related offenses or charges.
The statement said a French court had convicted Sorzabal in absentia for her role as ETA leader responsible for the group's killing of two Spanish police in the French town of Capbreton in 2007.
Alan Clendenning contributed to this report.