Spanish militant group ETA surrender weapons to French police

Elias Hubbard
April 17, 2017

"On April 8, ETA will accept its defeat after almost six years in which it said it would make concessions which never materialised", the PP's representative in the Basque parliament, Alfonso Alonso, told national radio last night.

Eta, the Basque militant group, has handed over the location of its weapons caches to the French authorities, ending almost half a century of separatist violence that has killed more than 800 people.

Eta, founded in 1959, says its pledge confirms it has brought the curtain down on its armed campaign for a Basque homeland, a territory that straddles the border between northwest Spain and southwest France.

"The government will not make any evaluations on the armament handed over today by ETA", says the communique, adding that it will wait for the analysis on the arms by the authorities and French judges.

In a letter Friday to the BBC, ETA declared itself a weapons-free organization after giving up its entire arsenal to civil society groups.

A group of activists self-appointed as "peace artisans" had already announced a disarmament strategy in southwestern France but ETA had not confirmed it directly.

"What we are going to try to put on the table is the prisoners' issue, the refugees, the demilitarization of this country", Otegi said Friday according to Spanish news agency Europa Press, referring to ETA jailed militants and those in exile. "The only real guarantee to succeed are the thousands of people gathering tomorrow in Bayonne [in south-western France] supporting the disarmament", said the group.

However, the group instead delivered coordinates to the eight weapons caches to the Italian Archbishop of Bologna and Irish Priest Harold Good, who then passed the information on to French authorities in the early hours of Saturday morning.

"It will not reap any political advantage or profit", Inigo Mendez de Vigo, Spain's culture minister and its government spokesman, said. The fact it has taken the organisation so long to take that step probably reflects the reluctance of many within its ranks to do so when the Spanish and French governments have offered nothing in exchange.

The organisation, whose bloody campaign for an independent state in southwest France and northern Spain put it on the European Union blacklist of terrorist groups, has presented officials with a list of eight secret stockpiles during a discreet meeting in the French town of Bayonne.

ETA's first victim was a Civil Guard police officer killed in 1968.

"The process of socially disarming ETA is not over", Alonso said.

In 2011, after a string of arrests among its senior ranks and stirring mass protests after particularly bloody attacks, ETA announced that it had abandoned its armed campaign.

He said Peace Artisans were deployed at each location until French authorities take possession of the weapons.

"It creates a unique opportunity which the Spanish and French governments, and the political parties in the region, must urgently grasp".

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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