After killing more than 800 people throughout Spain in the past 43 years, the Basque separatist group ETA has declared an end to its bloody campaign for an independent homeland in Europe Thursday adding that it now wants talks with Spain and France – a groundbreaking move that could pave the way for ending Europe’s last armed militancy.
The historic announcement was made via video by three ETA members wearing trademark Basque berets and masks with slits for their eyes. At the end of the clip, they defiantly raised their fists in the air demanding a separate Basque nation – a tone that FOX News said “did not sound like one of a group surrendering, or admitting defeat.”
Following the announcement, Mariano Rajoy,the leader of the conservative opposition Popular Party that is expected to become Spain’s next prime minister when general elections are held next month, urged ETA to hand over its weapons and disband as an organization.
Once a force that terrorized the country with shootings and bombings, ETA emerged during the dictatorship of Gen. Francisco Franco, who was obsessed with the idea of Spain as a unified state and suppressed Basque culture, banning the ancient and linguistically unique language – which sounds nothing like Spanish or any other language – and destroying books written in it.
Basques argue they are culturally distinct from Spain and deserve statehood, and arrests of independence sympathizers still prompt crowds to head to the streets clapping in support. But the wealthy and verdant region also has many inhabitants who consider themselves Spanish, or both Basque and Spanish, and have long been opposed to the militants.
The ETA’s most memorable attack came in 1973, when the Basque terrorist group detonated a bomb on a Madrid street after weeks of tunneling and killed Franco’s Prime Minister Luis Carrero Blanco.