ETA, an acronym for Euskadi Ta Askatasuna ("Basque Homeland and Liberty" or "Basque Country and Freedom") was an armed leftist Basque nationalist and separatist organization in the Basque Country (in northern Spain and southwestern France). The group was founded in 1959 and later evolved from a group promoting traditional Basque culture to a paramilitary group engaged in a violent campaign of bombing, assassinations and kidnappings in the Southern Basque Country and throughout Spanish territory. Its goal was gaining independence for the Basque Country. ETA was the main group within the Basque National Liberation Movement and was the most important Basque participant in the Basque conflict.
Between 1968 and 2010, it killed 829 people (including 340 civilians) and injured thousands more. ETA was classified as a terrorist group by Spain, France, the United Kingdom, the United States, Canada and the European Union. This convention was followed by a plurality of domestic and international media, which also referred to the group as "terrorists". There are more than 260 imprisoned former members of the group in Spain, France, and other countries.
ETA declared ceasefires in 1989, 1996, 1998 and 2006. On 5 September 2010, ETA declared a new ceasefire that remained in force, and on 20 October 2011, ETA announced a "definitive cessation of its armed activity". On 24 November 2012, it was reported that the group was ready to negotiate a "definitive end" to its operations and disband completely. The group announced on 7 April 2017 that it had given up all its weapons and explosives. On 2 May 2018, ETA made public a letter dated to 16 April 2018 according to which it had "completely dissolved all its structures and ended its political initiative".
ETA's motto was Bietan jarrai ("Keep up on both"), referring to the two figures in its symbol, a snake (representing politics) wrapped around an axe (representing armed struggle)
Tactics used by ETA
ETA's tactics included:
- Direct attacks: killing by shooting the victim in the nape.
- Bombings (often with car bombs). When the bombs targeted individuals for assassination they were often surreptitiously rigged in the victim's car. The detonating systems varied. They were rarely manually ignited but instead, for example, wired so the bomb would explode on ignition or when the car went over a set speed limit. Sometimes the bomb was placed inside a stolen car with false plates, parked along the route of the objective, and the explosive remotely activated when the target passed by (e.g. V.I.P. cars, police patrols or military vehicles).
These bombs sometimes killed family members of ETA's target victim and bystanders. When the bombs were large car-bombs seeking to produce large damage and terror, they were generally announced by one or more telephone calls made to newspapers speaking in the name of ETA. Charities (usually Detente Y Ayuda—DYA) were also used to announce the threat if the bomb was in a populated area. The type of explosives used in these attacks were initially Goma-2 or self-produced ammonal. After a number of successful robberies in France, ETA began using Titadyne.
- Shells: hand-made mortars (the Jo ta ke model) were occasionally used to attack military or police bases. Their lack of precision was probably the reason their use was discontinued.
- Anonymous threats: often delivered in the Basque Country by placards or graffiti. Such threats forced many people into hiding or into exile from the Basque Country, and were used to prevent people from freely expressing political ideas other than Basque nationalist ones.
- Extortion or blackmail: called by ETA a "revolutionary tax", demanding money from a business owner in the Basque Country or elsewhere in Spain, under threats to him and his family, up to and including death threats. Occasionally, some French Basques were threatened in this manner, such as footballer Bixente Lizarazu. ETA moves the extorted funds to accounts in Liechtenstein and other fiscal havens. According to French judiciary sources, ETA exacts an estimated 900,000 euros a year in this manner.
- Kidnapping: often as a punishment for failing to pay the blackmail known as "revolutionary tax", but was also used to try to force the government to free ETA prisoners under the threat of killing the kidnapped, as in the kidnapping and subsequent execution of Miguel Angel Blanco. ETA often hid the kidnapped in underground chambers without windows, called zulos, of very reduced dimensions for extended periods. Also, people robbed of their vehicles would usually be tied up and abandoned in an isolated place to allow those who carjacked them to escape.
- Robbery: ETA members also stole weapons, explosives, machines for license plates and vehicles.
Timeline of actions
- December 20, 1973: ETA militants disguised as electricians rig a bomb in a tunnel under the street in Madrid, then detonate it as a car carrying Prime Minister Luis Carrero Blanco drives over. He is killed along with the driver and his bodyguard.
- September 13, 1974: The ETA detonates a bomb in the Cafeteria Rolando, a restaurant popular with the Spanish police in Madrid. 12 die(including two police) and 71 are injured(including 11 police). One of the injured dies later.
- December 28,1974: The ETA robs a bank in Vitoria, Basque Country, taking six million pesetas.
- October 4, 1976: ETA gunmen fire on two cars, one carrying Congressional Deputy Juan Maria de Araluce Villar and another carrying police escorts in San Sebastian, Basque Country. All 5 occupants of the vehicles are killed and 10 civilians are injured.
- October 8, 1977: ETA gunmen, in a shooting similar to the previous one, assassinate Congressional Deputy Augusto Unceta Barrenechea in Guernica, Basque Country, killing two bodyguards in addition to the main target.
- October 22, 1978: ETA gunmen ambush 4 Civil Guards in Gexto, Basque Country, killing 3 and injuring 1.
- July 29, 1979: The ETA bombs Barajas International Airport and two train stations in Madrid, killing 7(including one German) and injuring over a hundred.
- February 1, 1980: ETA fighters ambush a weapons transport convoy in Ispaster, Basque Country, killing 6 Civil Guards and seizing the weapons. 2 insurgents are also killed.
- July 13, 1980: ETA fighters ambush a Civil Guard convoy, killing 2. 2 insurgents are also killed.
- September 20, 1980:ETA gunmen kill 4 Civil Guards in a bar in Markina, Basque Country.