Yesterday, Spanish separatist group, ETA announced an end to its campaign of shootings and bombings as a way of demanding Basque independence.Over the last 40 years, over 800 lives have been claimed by the violent group’s attacks. Though the group is still looking for independence of the Basque region, it has now vowed to put down its weapons, a decision that was largely expected following its weakening over the past few years.
Founded during the years of Franco, the group has been responsible for countless terrorist attacks in Spain since the late-1950s. Here’s a look at its past.
Formed in 1959 as a student resistance movement under General Franco, ETA began growing as an organisation during the 1960s.
The name stands for 'Euskadi ta Askatasuna' meaning 'Basque Homeland and Freedom.'
According to the BBC the Basque language was banned under Franco, while the culture of the region was also suppressed.
The Basque Country, the northern region of Spain close to the French border, is home to ETA.
The region has its own language and its own culture in the same way that other regions of Spain, such as Catalonia, also have their own idiosyncrasies. It's something that the Basque people take great pride in, so when General Franco began his attempt to crush the region's individuality he was met with backlash.
Basque nationalists had previously fought against Franco in the Spanish civil war. The Basque town of Guernica is known for being bombed by the German Luftwaffe at Franco's request during the conflict. It later became the subject of one of Pablo Picasso's most famous works.
According to the Guardian, ETA's first planned killing was made in 1968.
Meliton Manzanas, a police chief from San Sebastian was the victim. Throughout its history, ETA has targeted members of the police force with their attacks.
On this occasion, Manzanas was reportedly shot by an ETA assassin as he returned home. He was known to be an opponent of Basque nationalism.
ETA recorded an unprecedented victory when it assassinated Franco's Prime Minister Admiral Luis Carrero Blanco.
According to the Guardian, ETA militants tunneled under the road traveled by Carrero Blanco every day, planting a mine which they hoped the Admiral would drive over. He eventually did, and his vehicle was blown over a four story building.
As Spain emerged from dictatorship in the late 1970s, ETA didn't stop its campaign for independence, perhaps hitting a peak with the number of people it killed each year.
In 1978, ETA founded its political wing, Herri Batasuna, with the aim of pushing for full independence of the Basque region. Previously, the region had been given some autonomy over three provinces, Alava, Vizcaya and Guipuzcoa. The presidents of the Provincial Assemblies of two of these provinces were assassinated by ETA in the late 1970s.
The Grupos Antiterroristas de Liberacion (GAL) came in light in the 1980s in opposition to the separatist group.
Essentially a hit squad, GAL assassinated 28 ETA representatives during the decade, according to Reuters. Other members of the Basque group were subject to torture when captured by the anti-terrorism organisation.
In 1988 courts begin looking at possible links between GAL and the Spanish government. They concluded that the organisation consisted of a group of rogue agents who were drafted by two policemen and paid for with public money. The Prime Minister of Spain denies any involvement.
Members of Herri Batasuna were thrown in jail in 1997, in what was the first jailing of anyone associated with, but not a member of, ETA according to the Guardian.
Mass demonstrations were carried out against ETA, with a reported six million Spaniards taking to the streets.
ETA, however, got frustrated that political prisoners were being held away from the Basque country and demonstrated its discontent by having its members kidnap and kill a Basque councilor.
The EU and U.S. both declared that the group was a terrorist organisation in 2003.
Three people were killed in bombings before the group stopped attacks until 2006. That might partly be due to the fact that this period also saw several members of the group tracked down by Spanish police.
Additionally, ETA declared a ceasefire on Catalonia in 2004, a move that Spanish politicians discredited as using violence to divide the Spanish people.
Two of ETA's key figures were arrested in 2008 as the Spanish government said it would only consider an unconditional surrender as a means of peace with the group.
First, the organisation's political commander, Javier Lopez Pena was detained having been caught in France. He was joined six months later by Garikoitz Aspiazu Rubina the man who was presumed to be ETA's military head. He was also hiding in France.
And now, ETA has called off its campaign of violence.
It had previously claimed a ceasefire in January of this year but that proposal was rejected by the Spanish government who said that only a renouncement of violence would satisfy.
It's unknown how long this promise of peace will last.
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