Here's What You Need To Know About ETA

Eta Basque Spain

Photo: AP

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.

1959: The Formation

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.

What It's Fighting For

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.

1968: First Blood.

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.

1973: ETA Takes Down The Prime Minister

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.

1978: Democracy Doesn't Calm ETA

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.

According to the BBC, the last years of the 1970s saw ETA kill an average of 100 people a year. In 1980, the group had its bloodiest year ever when 118 people died as a result of attacks.

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.

1983: ETA Gets Some Opposition

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.

1997: Mass Protests And ETA Thrown In Jail

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.

1998: A Short Ceasefire

ETA agreed to a short ceasefire in 1998 but it didn't last long.

The organisation called the peace off at the end of 1999, while the assassination of a former health minister and a car bomb in Madrid in 2000 signaled a return to violence.

2003: ETA Are Officially Terrorists

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.

2006: Another Ceasefire

In March 2006, ETA declared another ceasefire, which lasted on this occasion until the end of the year.

Peace talks were called off with the group after a car bomb exploded at Madrid airport on the last day of the year, killing two.

At least eight people have been killed by ETA since then.

2008: Key Figures Arrested

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.

2011: ETA Call Off The Violence

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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