By DIEGO TORRES
MADRID — The Basque separatist group ETA, which carried out a terror campaign from the 1960s to 2011 in which hundreds of people died, said on Friday it will disarm completely in coming weeks.
“ETA has trusted us with the responsibility of the disarmament of its arsenal and, as of the evening of April 8, ETA will be totally disarmed,” Txetx Etcheverry, a French-Basque member of pro-independence activist group Bizi, told Le Monde newspaper.
Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy confirmed the news, telling reporters: “ETA has decided … to unilaterally disarm itself.” Urging the Basque group to stick to its promise, he said: “Spain’s government will do what it has always done: apply the law equally for everyone.”
Confirmation of the news also came from the head of the regional Basque government, Íñigo Urkullu, and the leader of Bildu, a coalition which largely supported ETA’s violent activities in the past, Arnaldo Otegi.
ETA, which stands for Euskadi Ta Askatasuna (“Basque Country and Freedom”), declared a permanent ceasefire in 2011, but there has been no peace process since then between ETA and the Spanish and French governments.
Otegi of Bildu accused Madrid and Paris of sabotaging previous attempts to disarm, and asked them not to get in the way this time.
ETA was created during the dictatorship of Francisco Franco and carried out a campaign of kidnappings, assassinations and bombings with the aim of building an independent socialist Basque state in northern Spain and southern France. It killed more than 800 policemen, politicians, businessmen, journalists, judges and other civilians.
Spanish newspaper El País reported that ETA would use civil intermediaries to notify French legal authorities of the location of its weapons caches — thought to be mostly in France — so that they can then be put under the supervision of an international committee.
The latest announcement gives cause for hope of reconciliation in a region that has not yet come to terms with its violent recent history. The Spanish government and most political parties tend to portray ETA’s campaign as senseless evil, while the Basque nationalists emphasize that both sides committed crimes.
One of the hottest political issues is the fate of about 400 people who are still in jail for ETA crimes, mostly dispersed in prisons across Spain. Basque politicians want them to be allowed to serve the rest of their terms in jails closer to home.