TOWARD THE END OF ETA

ETA hands over explosives and 118 weapons in decommissioning process

At event in southern French city of Bayonne, international verifiers say terror group “fully disarmed”

Basque separatist group ETA on Saturday handed over 118 pistols, rifles and automatic weapons, 2,875 kilograms of explosives, and 25,700 detonating devices and ammunition that had been hidden in eight caches, the locations of which were passed on by an International Verification Committee to the French authorities.

French police at one of ETA's arms caches on Saturday.
French police at one of ETA's arms caches on Saturday.REGIS DUVIGNAU / REUTERS

The terrorist organization, which in 2011 announced a definitive ceasefire after its four-decade-long armed fight for an independent Basque homeland, during which it killed more than 850 people and wounded thousands, is now “totally unarmed” according to the committee. The majority of the arms stores were hidden in small communities in the French Basque Country.

ETA went through the motions of disarmament in February 2014, when it handed over four unused guns and around two dozen kilograms of bomb-making material.

At an event in the town hall of Bayonne, in the French Basque Country, the coordinates of the eight arms caches were provided by ETA mediator Jean Nöel Etcheverry to representatives of the committee in the presence of the mayor of Bayonne.

The French authorities will continue to work with Spain to verify  the disarmament process

Ram Manikkalingham, the head of the committee, along with Mateo Zuppi, the archbishop of the Italian city of Bologna, as well as Harold Good, an eminent Irish Methodist who played a vital role in the Northern Ireland peace process, officially announced that ETA’s disarmament was complete.

Some 172 observers accredited by ETA mediators oversaw the process, with teams of around 20 standing watch at the eight locations.

The Spanish government has refused to take part in the process, saying it will not negotiate with terrorists.

French Prime Minster Bernard Cazeneuve said his government would work with the Spanish authorities to “to verify if the material collected can help to resolve ongoing investigations and allow for confirmation that the disarmament is total.”

Also in attendance at the event were several leading figures from the pro-independence Basque left, among them Arnaldo Otegi, the head of separatist party Sortu. The Basque branch of Podemos sent two representatives, Pili Zabala and Andeka Larrea. The center-right Basque Nationalist Party sent its representative in the French Basque Country, Paco Arizmendi.

Following an announcement by Manikkalingham verifying ETA’s “definitive, unilateral” disarmament, several hundred supporters of an independent Basque country who had traveled to Bayona staged a series of events, as well as calling for the release of ETA prisoners who are ill and for those serving jail time to be held in jails in the Basque Country.

English version by Nick Lyne.

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