Spanish police yesterday launched dawn raids on homes in the province surrounding Bilbao and arrested seven people suspected of links to Basque separatist group ETA. Striking back after ETA was blamed for three recent bombs in Vizcaya province, police said the seven rounded up were suspected of taking part in street violence led by youth supporters of ETA. The violence is typified by hurling Molotov cocktails, burning bank machines and staging illegal protests by young Basque radicals who authorities say are recruited into the larger ETA structure. The outlawed group, which has killed more than 800 people since 1968 in a drive for Basque independence, has been listed by the European Union and the United States as a terrorist organisation. Around 30 police officers raided homes early on Wednesday in the towns of Durango and Elorrio in the province of Vizcaya. Documents and propaganda were seized, police said. The suspects were being transferred to Madrid to appear before a High Court judge, government officials said. On Monday, police defused a bomb planted at the Bilbao stock exchange in the name of ETA and another was found the same day outside the home of a longtime Socialist leader in Vizcaya. A leader of the Socialist party's youth wing lost a leg when a bomb attached to his car exploded on February 19 just outside Bilbao, and then on Friday a bomb hidden in a shopping cart went off, injuring a Socialist politician and her bodyguard, also in Vizcaya. All of those acts were blamed on ETA, which usually waits several weeks before claiming responsibility for its attacks. ETA, has claimed 38 killings since it resumed violence in January 2000 after an 18-month ceasefire. The group seeks an independent state in Basque areas of northern Spain and southwestern France.

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