The militant Basque separatist group ETA has issued an apology to its victims. Euskadi Ta Askatasuna, which means Basque Country and Freedom, released a statement in Gara, a local bilingual paper, noting the pain it had caused which could not be undone.
We want to show respect for the dead, those injured and the victims that were caused by the actions of ETA… We truly apologise.
ETA Statement, Gara, 20th April
The Basque country, nestled between the Pyrenees and the Bay of Biscay, stretches over north-western Spain and south-eastern France. It has a language and culture distinct from Spain and France; Euskara, the Basque language, is an isolate meaning that it is not related to any other living language. Both French and Spanish belong to the Romance languages, descended from local vernaculars of Latin.
ETA started its campaign for Basque independence in 1959 and drew support from anti-Franco sentiment across some aspects of Spanish society. The dictator had banned the Basque language and outlawed its culture. From 1959 to 2010, when it declared a ceasefire that eventually became permanent, ETA killed 820 people, including 340 civilians. Its tactics included bombings, kidnappings, and assassinations. The first victim of ETA’s activities was José Pardines, a Civil Guard, killed in 1968 at a roadblock near Aduna. The struggle was at its most active in 1980 when ETA murdered 98 people. Their deadliest attack came in 1987 when a car bomb in Barcelona killed 21 people.
ETA was initially suspected of carrying out the 2004 train bombings in Madrid, which killed 193 people. National newspapers, as well as the prime minister at the time, José Maria Aznar, firmly supported the theory that ETA had carried out the attack. The group used Gara, the same newspaper in which their apology appeared, to deny that they were involved in the bombings. Al-Qaeda claimed responsibility for the atrocity three days after it occurred.
The Basque terrorist group is expected to declare its intention to disband on Monday. The International Contact Group, an organisation whose goal is to achieve political normalisation in the Basque country, led by Brian Currin, the South African lawyer who helped create the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in the aftermath of Nelson Mandela’s election to the presidency, will hold a press conference on the 23rd of April outlining details of the dissolution. The Basque country became an autonomous community in the wake of the death of Franco, and enjoys considerable freedom, though not independence, from Madrid. Though there has been some pressure for full independence, including a proposal to enter the Basque country into a free association with the rest of Spain, this has not been as notable as the actions taken by Catalan separatists.
Image by Zarateman – Own work, CC0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=22850873
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