Eta militants begin weapons handover

By BBC

Basque militant group Eta has begun the process of handing over its remaining weapons, formally ending the last remaining insurgency in Europe.

At a ceremony in the southern French city of Bayonne, an inventory of weapons, and their locations, was passed to the judicial authorities.

Eta killed more than 800 people and wounded thousands in more than 40 years of violence.

It declared a ceasefire in 2011 but did not disarm.

Its goal was to create an independent Basque state out of territory in south-west France and northern Spain.

France and Spain refuse to negotiate with Eta, which is on the EU blacklist of terrorist organisations.

The BBC’s Lyse Doucet, in Bayonne, says the ceremony took place in the presence of the local mayor, an Italian archbishop and an Irish priest, and civil society representatives.

The Chairman of the International Verification Commission, Ram Manikkalingam, said he hoped this important step would help consolidate peace in the Basque region.

The pledge to disarm came in a letter obtained by the BBC, confirming earlier reports about Eta’s intention to lay down arms.

The letter, dated 7 April, says that “after giving up all its weaponry (arms and explosives) to Basque civil society representatives, [Eta] now is a disarmed organisation.

Speaking on Friday, Spanish government spokesman Inigo Mendez de Vigo said Eta “will get nothing from a democratic state like Spain”.

He demanded that the group not only disarm, but also clarify who carried out past Eta attacks.

Eta was set up more than 50 years ago in the era of Spanish dictator General Franco. Its first known killing was in 1968, when a secret police chief, Meliton Manzanas, was shot dead in the Basque city of San Sebastian.

In 2014 the International Verification Commission of inspectors said Eta had put some of its weapons out of action, but the Spanish government dismissed the move as “theatrical”.

  

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