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Euskadi Ta Askatasuna

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Euskadi Ta Askatasuna or ETA (Basque for "Basque Homeland and Freedom"; IPA pronunciation: [ˈɛːta]) is a terrorist nationalist militant organization. It wants to establish a separate nation-state for the Basque people. The Basque people are an ethnic group living in areas of northern Spain and southwestern France. There are between 2 and 2.5 million Basques in the region. Some of them speak an indigenous, non-Indo-European language called Euskara.

What they are

ETA is one of Europe’s most notorious and long-running terror groups. It was founded in 1959 from what was left of EKIN, another radical Basque separatist group. Both EKIN and ETA were created because of discontent with the moderate nationalism of the main Basque party, the Basque National Party. Since its founding, ETA has been responsible for hundreds of attacks in Spain and France. It has also maintained ties with other terrorist groups both inside and outside the Basque region. These ties included the Irish Republican Army and Venezuela’s Red Flag.

Their attacks

Most of ETA’s attacks have targeted businesses and Spanish government officials, especially members of the security services and the judiciary. Its most common tactics are bombing and assassination. Similar to the IRA, ETA sometimes issues warnings before the attacks.

The group’s most notorious success was the assassination of Admiral Luis Carrero Blanco in December 1973. At the time, Blanco was seen by many as the most likely successor to Spain’s dictator, Francisco Franco. He was killed when an underground bomb exploded beneath his car. More than twenty years later, ETA nearly assassinated Jose Maria Aznar, an opposition politician who later became prime minister.

Status change

The status of the Basque homeland changed significantly with the end of the Franco regime and the return of democracy in 1979. Franco tried to suppress Basque nationalism and separatism. The new democratic government, on the other hand, offered significant autonomy to the Basque provinces. In a deal struck in 1980, the Basque region acquired its own parliament. It was also allowed to change taxes. In addition, the language Euskara became more prominent in public culture and education. The new autonomy, however, did not deter the radical separatists that comprised ETA. ETA has committed approximately 900 murders and dozens of kidnappings.

Change of activity

ETA’s level of activity has changed over the years. The group has attempted several cease-fires, including a 14-month one that lasted until December 1999. While there have been a number of ETA attacks since 2000, the group has claimed fewer victims. It is believed to be shrinking. Spanish officials believe that recent crackdowns have led to a serious weakening of the group and sense that its future as a terrorist organization may be limited. There are more than one hundred suspected ETA members in Spanish prisons today.

In the past several years, ETA has done sporadic attacks, including strings of bombings in September 2004, December 2005, and early 2006. However, these bombings were generally preceded by warnings and did not result in any deaths.

Current Goals: In March 2006, ETA declared a permanent cease-fire and expressed a willingness to join the political process. The decision may have been linked to the infamous Madrid train bombings of March 11th, 2004, which killed nearly 200 people. The attack was originally blamed on ETA, though it was soon discovered to be the work of militant Islamists linked to al-Qaeda. Like the Irish Republican Army, ETA leaders may have felt that the mass casualty terrorism practiced by some radical Islamist groups discredited its violent tactics—though this is not known for certain. ETA is famous for its secretive leadership structure.

In June 2007, ETA declared its March 2006 cease-fire null-and-void, though many had seen ETA’s December 2006 bombing of an airport parking garage as an indication that the truce would not hold. An ETA spokesperson accused the Spanish government of interfering in Basque local elections as well as continuing with the prosecution and conviction of ETA members during the cease-fire.

It must be noted that ETA did not officially renounce violence or initiate steps to decommission its weapons (as the IRA did in July 2005) as part of its cease-fire declaration. ETA cease-fires have deteriorated into violence before.