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Basque Group ETA Gives France List of Arms Caches after Disarmament Initiative | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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An old man walks past graffiti depicting the logo of Basque separatist group ETA in Goizueta, Spain, May 25, 2005. REUTERS file photo

The Basque separatist group ETA has given the French police a list of 12 arms caches in southwestern France under its unilateral initiative to disarm following more than four decades of armed struggle, informed sources said on Saturday.

The caches are located in the departments, or counties, of the Gers, Pyrenees-Atlantiques and Hautes-Pyrenees, the sources told Agence France Presse.

ETA announced earlier this week that it would hand over all its remaining weapons by Saturday, a move bringing the final curtain down on its armed campaign for a Basque homeland that gained it notoriety as one of Europe’s most intractable separatist movements.

Anger among Basques at political and cultural repression under General Francisco Franco led to the founding of ETA in 1959.

In 2011, it announced that it had abandoned its armed campaign but chose not to disarm.

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.

But both France and Spain have taken a firm line and refused any concessions.

Experts on ETA have previously estimated the group’s remaining arsenal to comprise 130 handguns and two tons of explosives.

On Friday, a Basque environmentalist named Txetx Etcheverry, apparently acting as a go-between, told AFP that the weapons would be checked on Saturday by an outside verification body.

The panel, which includes a former Interpol secretary general, Raymond Kendall, is not recognized by either the French or the Spanish governments.

French police are on standby to take possession of the weapons, officials have told AFP.

In Madrid, the government on Friday dismissed ETA’s disarmament as a unilateral affair and warned that the group — which it denounces as a terror organization — could expect “nothing” in return.

“May it disarm, may it dissolve, may it ask forgiveness and help to clear up the crimes which have not been resolved,” Inigo Mendez de Vigo, Spain’s culture minister and its government spokesman, said.

The Basque parliamentary spokesman for Spain’s ruling People’s Party, which has refused to negotiate with ETA and
called for its full dissolution, said the handover was a final surrender after six years of broken promises.

“The ETA we’ve known up to now has gone forever,” said Borja Semper outside the legislature in Vitoria-Gasteiz. “What remains to be done is to wipe out the hatred that ETA embedded in a large part of Basque society.”

ETA has been blamed for the deaths of 829 people in a string of bombings and shootings. Its first known victim was a secret police chief killed in San Sebastian in 1968. Its last was a French policemen the group shot in 2010.