Basque group ETA hands over tons of weapons to France

Past ceasefires by ETA have been declared but this time it appears that the death throes of this group are based on internal factors.

However, the group instead delivered coordinates to the eight weapons caches to the Italian Archbishop of Bologna and Irish Priest Harold Good, who then passed the information on to French authorities in the early hours of Saturday morning.

The panel said it "believes that this step constitutes the disarmament of ETA".

The move stops short of a full disbanding of the organisation that has killed more than 850 people in its quest for an independent state in the mountainous Basque region that incorporates part of northern Spain and south-western France.

"As the locations are progressively identified, the security forces will carry out operations to secure these sites and secure arms and explosives that may be found there", he said.

"Eta has handed over its weapons to civil society".

Inigo Mendez de Vigo, a political spokesperson for the government of Spain, said, "it will get nothing from a democratic state like Spain".

The Spanish government refused to make any evaluations on ETA disarmament, according to a communique released on Saturday. "They are on French soil". "This must never happen again in our country", he said, standing by the sea in the Basque resort of San Sebastian.

Over the years there were cease-fires and some fruitless negotiations with the Spanish government, only for the bombings and shootings to resume.

Since ETA was formed in 1959 many internal developments took place.

It has more recently sought to negotiate its dissolution in exchange for amnesties or improved prison conditions for roughly 350 of its members held in Spain and France, and for current members living under cover.

When speaking about victims, Basque nationalists usually take into account the ETA militants and supporters killed during the "dirty war" led by government-sanctioned counter-terrorism groups.

Ram Manikkalingam, third right, president of the Verification Commission for disarmament of ETA, the Basque separatist group, poses for the media with French Mayor of Bayonne Jean-Rene Etchegaray, right, and other members of the Verification Commission ahead of announcing that ETA handed over its arms in Bayonne, southwestern France, Saturday, April 8, 2017.

"Arms and equipment will be evaluated by justice authorities who will work, as always, in close collaboration with Spanish justice authorities to verify if the material gathered can help to resolve cases underway".

Spain's new democratic constitution in 1978 gave autonomous powers to a Basque government in three provinces, but ETA wanted more. A permanent cease-fire was called in 2006, but nine months later an ETA bomb killed two men at Madrid's airport.

However, Reuters has reported that the pro-Basque independence environmental group Bizi! told French newspaper Le Monde it is responsible for the handover.

  • Leroy Wright