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ETA terrorist wanted for attempt to murder Aznar held in France

El Pistolas thought to be behind 2001 attempts to assassinate then-prime minister

ETA terrorist Gregorio Jiménez Morales, known as el Pistolas, was arrested on Tuesday in the southern French town of Bidache where he was hiding out in another ETA member's home, antiterrorist sources said.

Jiménez Morales, who already served several sentences for his association with ETA, was involved in a slew of terrorist plots, including the attempt to murder then-Prime Minister José María Aznar in 2001 by shooting down his official plane with a missile. Although the missile launch failed, the plane was in its sights for a few moments.

The 56-year-old from Tolosa allegedly led the ETA cell that brought to Spain a Russian-made Sam 7 Strela missile launcher meant to down the official plane that Aznar used on three occasions to visit the Basque region. There were three attempts made against the airplane, all in 2001. The missiles were later added to ETA's arsenal, and eventually found by police on a French farm, where long-time ETA leader Mikel Antxa was arrested in 2004.

Jiménez Morales first joined an ETA cell in 1981, then fled to France and South America.