Friday 28 July 2017

Police find 3.5 tonnes of ETA weapons, as the terrorist group finally surrenders its arms

French prosecutor of Bayonne Samuel Vuelta Simon, third right, stands near a hideout used by Basque separatist guerrillas ETA in Saint Pee sur Nivelle, southwestern France (AP Photo/Bob Edme)
French prosecutor of Bayonne Samuel Vuelta Simon, third right, stands near a hideout used by Basque separatist guerrillas ETA in Saint Pee sur Nivelle, southwestern France (AP Photo/Bob Edme)
Amy Molloy

Amy Molloy

Almost 3.5 tonnes of explosives and arms have been found in eight arms dumps identified by the Basque separatist group ETA, according to French Prime Minister Bernard Cazeneuve.

The group provided a list of arms caches under its promise to completely disarm by today.

ETA, a group which has killed more than 850 people in its attempt to gain independence in northern Spain, declared a ceasefire in 2011 but did not disarm.

In a statement, Mr Cazeneuve welcomed the move: "It's a decisive step towards the end of Basque separatist terrorism."

The group was founded in 1959 in rebellion against General Francisco Franco and quickly became known as one of Europe's most notorious separatist groups.

Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy said the arms cache move signalled the "definitive defeat" of ETA. He reiterated the group could expect no government favours as a result.

Basque pro independence politician Juan Mari Olano gives a thumbs-up while attending a rally following the announcement of disarmament by armed separatists ETA in Bayonne April 8, 2017. REUTERS/Vincent West
Basque pro independence politician Juan Mari Olano gives a thumbs-up while attending a rally following the announcement of disarmament by armed separatists ETA in Bayonne April 8, 2017. REUTERS/Vincent West

Minister for Foreign Affairs, Charlie Flanagan TD also welcomed today's act of arms decommissioning.

"Today’s act of decommissioning by ETA marks a significant and welcome step in the disbanding of a terrorist organisation which inflicted great suffering on people in fellow EU member states and has no place in the European Union. Democracy and dialogue are the only legitimate means of resolving political differences.

"While I welcome today’s positive development, we must never forget the victims of terrorism; those who have died and those whose pain will continue beyond today’s announcement."

The Spanish government called on the rebels to "ask forgiveness from its victims and disappear".

Representatives of the self-appointed Peace Artisans, acting as mediators in the disarmament process, said ETA surrendered 120 firearms and three tons of explosives and ammunition.

"We hope that with this the movement can move forward to a long-lasting peace in the Basque country," activist Mixel Berhokoirigoin said.

He said Peace Artisans were deployed at each location until French authorities take possession of the weapons.

The International Verification Commission said in a statement that the list of caches given to them by the Peace Artisans group "was immediately conveyed to the relevant French authorities, who will now secure and collect ETA's arsenal".

The caches are in south-west France, a region historically used as a support base by ETA.

Tens of thousands of people gathered in the streets of Bayonne to celebrate the peace.

Additional reporting by the Press Association

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