Spanish terrorist group Eta disarms

World Today

France-Spain-ETA Pro independence Basque followers hold up the symbol of the day called ”Artisans of the Peace” close to a Basque flag during a meeting after the announcement that ETA handed over its arms in Bayonne, southwestern France, Saturday, April 8, 2017. The Basque separatist group ETA, inactive for more than five years, handed over its arms Saturday, putting a finishing touch to a 43-year violent campaign that claimed the lives of over 800 people mostly in Spain. (AP Photo/Alvaro Barrientos)

The Basque militant group Eta has begun the process of handing over its weapons, formally ending its insurgency. Celebrating the end of the conflict, thousands from across the region attended a rally in the southwestern French city of Bayonne.

CGTN’s Elena Casas reports from Bayonne.
Follow Elena Casas on Twitter @ElenacMontanez

Spanish terrorist group Eta disarms

Spanish terrorist group Eta disarms

After over forty years of armed conflict, the Basque separatist group Eta has begun the process of disarmament. The militants left caches of weapons for French authorities in the southwest city of Bayonne. But refusal from Spain's government to engage in formal negotiations has left the question of the group's disbanding up in the air. CGTN's Elena Casas reports from Bayonne.

French police dug up a remote farm near the Spanish border to uncover the last remnants of a violent insurgency that spanned more than 40 years.

Eta representatives handed over the location of eight hidden weapons caches to international mediators in a simple ceremony in the city of Bayonne.

The mediators say those dumps contain 120 firearms, about three tons of explosive, and several thousand rounds of ammunition.

In Bayonne proper, thousands of people – most of them from the Spanish Basque country – gathered to celebrate the end of the armed conflict.

Eta announced a ceasefire in 2011.

It says the handover of weapons has taken another six years because the Spanish government refuses to negotiate with its representatives.

Many people want to see that change.

About 400 Eta members are serving jail sentences in Spanish and French prisons, many for involvement in some of the more than 800 murders the group is accused of carrying out since 1959.

Spain has long had a policy of placing them in jails on the other side of the country.

Supporters want them moved closer to their families.

The Spanish government says it will offer no concessions.

“Our policy will not change. Terrorists cannot expect favorable treatment from governments, and certainly not impunity for their crimes. Eta has been militarily defeated, it has no future and its leaders are in prison,” said Juan Ignacio Zoido Spain’s Interior Minister.

Demonstrators in Bayonne hope disarmament can finally open the door to dialogue.

Many have been waiting for decades for this violent chapter in the history of the Basque country to end.

Now that the page has turned, the focus will be on the future of Eta prisoners in Spanish jails, and whether the group will definitively disband.