Key facts about the Basque separatist fighters, ETA

5th September 2010, Comments 0 comments

The armed Basque separatist group ETA has killed 829 people in a 42-year campaign of bombing and shootings for a homeland independent of Spain.


A group of left-wing nationalist students formed ETA on July 31, 1959, in oppposition to General Francisco Franco's dictatorship, which suppressed the Basque language and any signs of independence.

After a fruitless decade seeking its goals through political means, it evolved into an armed group with Marxist-Leninist ideals.


The group's full name stands for Euskadi Ta Askatasuna, which means Basque Homeland and Freedom in the Basque language.

It demands an independent Basque homeland -- Euskal Herria -- in the Basque autonomous region of northern Spain and parts of southwestern France and also lays claim to the Spanish region of Navarra.


-- The deadliest single bombing was in the parking lot of a Barcelona supermarket in June 1987, killing 21 people and injuring 45.

-- In December 1973, in the last years of the Franco regime, ETA blew up a car carrying then head of government Admiral Luis Carrero Blanco, the presumed successor to the dictator. The blast sent the car high into the air and killed Carrero Blanco instantly.

ETA has attempted to kill Spain's King Juan Carlos and former conservative prime minister Jose Maria Aznar.

-- In 1997, ETA abducted and then killed a conservative Popular Party town councillor in the Basque country, demanding all ETA prisoners be moved closer to the Basque country. The government refused and ETA shot the councillor dead in June of that year, sparking protests by millions of people across Spain.

-- ETA first took responsibility for a deadly attack in August 2, 1968, when it shot the police chief in the northern coastal town of San Sebastian.

The Spanish government however recently dated the first attack to June 27, 1960, when an incendiary bomb exploded in a station in San Sebastian and killed a baby. The government set June 27 as a day of remembrance and homage to victims of terrorism.


The group, which is considered a terrorist organisation by the United States and the European Union, finances itself by extorting cash from businesses in the wealthy, industrialised Basque region.

It recruits many of its members from the gangs of youths that hurl molotov cocktails at Spanish state symbols and carry out sabotage and arson attacks against public transportation.

In its most active period during the 1970s and early 1980s, ETA was estimated to have around 1,000 militants.


But in recent years ETA, whose symbol is a snake wrapped around an axe, has had dozens of its members arrested in Spain, France, Portugal and other countries, including several of its senior military leaders.

ETA has not staged an attack on Spanish soil since August 2009.

The group announced a "permanent ceasefire" in March 2006 but months later reversed course and in December 2006 set off a bomb at a car park at Madrid's international airport.

It formally called off that ceasefire in June 2007, citing a lack of progress in tentative peace talks with the Socialist government of Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero.

© 2010 AFP

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