Treasury Blocks Assets of Terror Suspects

The Treasury Department named one organization and seven individuals that are suspected of aiding the terrorists in the Basque region of Spain and ordered their assets frozen on Friday.

The move is the second this week aimed at demonstrating U.S. commitment to stopping terror committed not just by Islamic radicals. On Tuesday, Attorney General John Ashcroft announced a murder indictment against a Colombian rebel group and six of its members in connection with the deaths of three Americans.

Friday's freeze was executed in coordination with European allies. The announcement came while the president of Spain, a nation that has been terrorized by separatists of the Basque Fatherland and Liberty, commonly known as the Basque ETA, is in a town meeting with President Bush.

Another 18 entities were being blocked by the European Union, Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill said. The eight names Treasury was acting against Friday were on the EU list, along with eight entities whose financial assets the United States had previously ordered blocked.

Two other groups listed by the EU have not been acted against by the U.S. government yet, said Treasury spokesman Rob Nichols.

The coordinated move "is the result of close cooperation with our European allies — a collaboration that symbolizes an extremely important chapter in the financial war against terrorism," O'Neill said.

ETA, which was founded in 1959 to create an independent state in Spain's northern Basque region, is the prime suspect in two car bombings in Madrid this week, Treasury said. ETA has claimed responsibility for about 800 assassinations and multiple bombings of security and military forces and politicians. The U.S. State Department recognizes it as a terrorist organization.

The individuals and organization named are not suspected of any connections to the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks or Usama bin Laden's Al Qaeda terrorist network, Treasury officials said.

The attacks on Sept. 11 triggered Operation Green Quest, the Treasury's anti-terror financing investigation, which has blocked $116 million in financial assets since it began in September.

The Treasury Department named Askatasuna, an organization in Spain described by the United States as an ETA front whose actions are controlled by ETA to complement and support ETA militants.

Individuals Ivan Apaolaza Sancho, Gorka Palacios Alday, Asier Quintana Zorrozua, Juan Luis Rubenach Roig, Manex Zubiaga Bravo, and Lexuri Gallastegui Sodupe, all Spanish-born and possibly operating out of Madrid, also were listed.

Sodupe is the second woman to be placed on a U.S. blocking order. She is charged with collecting information on judges, politicians and other officials targeted for future terror attacks, Treasury said. The others participated in car bombings in Madrid and other terrorist acts.

Ismael Berasategui Escudero, also born in Spain, and a member of a separate cell of the ETA, has participated in car bombings outside the Malaga's Airport, the Cala Font Hotel in Salou, Tarragona, and in the Barajas' Airport in Madrid, the government said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.