COUNTER TERRORISM: Basque Separatists Ending Violence Campaign
Peace in the Basque Country Still Uncertain
While the demise of Libyan strongman Muammar Qaddafi sparks headlines around the world, another development on the international terrorism front is largely being overlooked: in Europe, the militant Basque separatist group, ETA, has announced it is ending its decades-long campaign of bombings, shootings and kidnappings to win independence.
The group, founded in 1959, called for “direct dialogue” with Spanish and French officials, the New York Times and other news outlets reported.
The Basque country, which straddles the border between northwest Spain and southwest France, includes the cities of Bilbao and Pamplona in Spain and Bayonne in France.
ETA, which stands for Euskadi Ta Askatasuna — “Basque Homeland and Freedom,” in the Basque language — has mounted a violent campaign against officials and police in both countries since the 1960s. Targets have also included journalists, academics, businessmen, railroads and a nuclear plant under construction. More than 800 people have been killed and thousands injured in Spain alone by ETA attacks.
ETA has declared, and then broken, ceasefires four times before. The group has been labeled a terrorist group by the European Union and the United States.
An international group of peacemakers that included former United Nations General Secretary Kofi Annan met in Spain’s Basque country last week and issued a communique Oct. 17 calling for an end to “the last armed confrontation in Europe.” On Oct. 20 ETA issued a statement and a video (viewable on the website of Britain’s Guardian newspaper) declaring “definitive cessation of its armed activity.” The Spanish government welcomed the ETA proclamation but several thorny issues have yet to be addressed. ETA did not say it was disarming, and it is expected to seek the release of hundreds of Basque prisoners being held in Spain, France and elsewhere.
The military dictatorship of Generalissimo Francisco Franco, who ruled Spain from 1939 to 1975, banned the Basque language and other cultural activities in the region. In 1979, Spain granted its part of Basque country a degree of autonomy.
Entry filed under: Counter Terrorism, Homeland Security, International Crime, National Security and Defense, News Developments. Tags: Basque separatism, Counter Insurgency, counter terrorism, Defense, E.T.A., France, Homeland Security, International Crime, Spain.