Basque group ETA hands over large cache of weapons to France
The Basque separatist group ETA on Saturday gave French authorities a list of eight caches where police found weapons, ammunition and explosives — a crucial move toward disarmament and a definitive end to its decades-long violent struggle to carve out a homeland on the French-Spanish border.
The Spanish government urged the rebel group to "ask forgiveness from its victims and disappear."
Paris prosecutor Francois Molins said police have searched each site and discovered, in containers and bags, "dozens of handguns and rifles, thousands of pieces of ammunition, several hundred kilograms of explosives and products that can be used to make explosives, several hundreds of detonators and timers."
A detailed inventory of the ETA weapons caches is underway and the results of French authorities' investigation will be given to Spanish justice authorities, Molins said.
"It's a great step, an unquestionably important day," French Interior Minister Matthias Fekl said.
Inactive for more than five years, ETA said it would hand over its arms, a historic step following a 43-year violent independence campaign that killed 829 people, mostly in Spain.
Disarmament is the second-to-last step demanded by France and Spain, which want ETA to formally disband. The organization hasn't said if it would.
Spain "will not make any evaluation of the handing over of weapons today by ETA until they have been analyzed by French authorities," Interior Minister Juan Ignacio Zoido said in a televised address. "The government will not alter its position: Terrorists cannot hope to receive any special treatment from the government nor immunity for their crimes."
Spain called on the ETA to "announce its definitive dissolution, ask forgiveness from its victims and disappear."
Representatives of the self-appointed Peace Artisans group, who are acting as mediators in the disarmament process, told reporters that ETA had surrendered 120 firearms and three tons of explosives and ammunition.
"We hope that, with this, the movement can move forward to a long-lasting peace in the Basque country," activist Mixel Berhokoirigoin said.
The caches were in southwestern France, a region historically used as a support base by ETA.
Some 20,000 people gathered in the streets of Bayonne, in southwestern France, to celebrate the peace. Many sang slogans calling for convicted ETA members to complete their sentences in their homelands.
Many Basque separatists have pushed for convicted members to serve their prison time closer to their homes, not scattered around Spain and France. The Spanish and French governments have refused.
The Rev. Harold Good, a Methodist minister who helped oversee the Northern Ireland peace process, urged authorities to "bring the prisoners home, to their families ... above all, those who are frail by sickness and by age." He was cheered by the crowd.
The president of the Basque Country's regional government in Spain called the disarmament an "important step with historical value."
"It certifies that there should have never been any ETA victim," Inigo Urkullu said. "All the victims are part of this success."
When speaking about victims, Basque nationalists usually take into account the ETA militants and supporters killed during the "Dirty War" led by government-sanctioned counter-terrorism groups.
The president of the Victims of Terrorism Foundation, Maria del Mar Blanco, whose brother was kidnapped and killed by the ETA in 1997, called for "nobody to rewrite history."
"The bad guys are still the bad guys. The good guys — we the victims of terrorism — are still the good ones," Blanco told Spanish national television.
Javier Maroto of Spain's ruling Party Popular said the disarmament is "a step forward, but it's not enough."
In contrast, the pro-independence leader of Sortu, a Basque separatist party linked to ETA, said "the armed struggle is over, but the fight for the same ends goes on."
"As of tomorrow, we need to keep working on the issues of the prisoners, the victims and the demilitarization of the country," Arnaldo Otegi said.
A handful of ETA members are still on the run. Hundreds of killings also remain unsolved, and the arms caches could help lead authorities to some of the perpetrators.
- For Public Schools, It's Been '1984' For Quite A While
- Trump's Pick To Lead The Army Believes Being Transgender Is A Disease
- Why Trump's Syria Strike Will Not End Well
- Ahead Of Its Election, France Is Deeply Fragmented, Its People Often Angry and Scared
- White House Slams Russia For Trying To Cover Up Assad’s Chemical Attacks
- Fox News pulls Judge Napolitano over his Trump wiretap claims
- France election: Far-left Melenchon enjoys late poll surge
- Spicer says Hitler comment 'inexcusable and reprehensible'
- Ambrose meets Trump NAFTA point man; calls meeting reassuring
- Europe closes mixed; Stoxx 600 reaches yearly highs amid geopolitical concerns
- Paulo Dybala nets two to give Juventus win over Barcelona
- Trade and North Korea expected to be major issues as Trump meets Chinese president
You might also like
- Angels manager Mike Scioscia rethinks the use of his closer in tight games
- Calendar: Highlights from around town
- Tribute at Alex Theatre to honor the Band
- Trump pushes historic cuts in global health aid, stoking fears of new disease outbreaks and diminished U.S. clout
- Trying to keep up with the latest Trump news? Some stories you should pay attention to
- Lawmakers have put a lot of energy into getting new stadiums built — without much success
- Trump to dismantle Obama's landmark climate effort
- These are the 19 agencies Trump would stop funding entirely
- What will it mean to get rid of the 'administrative state'? Trump’s first budget will offer a glimpse
- Trump budget would reignite California's financial strains
- After intense public anger, Republicans waver over slashing Obama-era action on methane gas
- This is how states will fight Trump's energy order
- Powerful South Carolina political consultant implicated in indictments of a veteran state senator
- Will Donald Trump get a second Supreme Court nomination?
- "Hazing" rituals await Supreme Court's "junior justice" Neil Gorsuch
- The hunt is on for Planet Nine. Here's how to join it
- Trump approves controversial Keystone XL oil pipeline
- Trump praises 'Fox & Friends,' renews old feuds in early morning tweets
- Rex Tillerson finally answers question from NBC News' Andrea Mitchell
- First Read's Morning Clips: The Latest in the Russia Investigation
- Spicer: 'I've let the president down'
- Russian President Vladimir Putin met with U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on Wednesday
- OMB Diriector Mick Mulvaney: Washington's 'a lot more broken' than Trump thought
- Trump attacks conservatives over failure of health care bill
- A very consequential week didn't go well for President Trump
- Health Care Showdown: Republicans look to go big or go home
- No deal on health care bill after conservatives meet with Trump
- CA gov on those supporting health bill: 'Their name is going to be mud'
- Give it to me straight, doc: Is Obamacare dying?
- First Read's Morning Clips: Waiting for CBO
- 14 People Share What's It's Really Like to Have An Ex Who Is Now Their In-Law
- The Internet Is Freaking Out About The Way This Chef Cuts Pizza
- The hunt is on for Planet Nine. Here's how to join it
- Israeli prime minister talks of a snap election amid concerns over a new public broadcaster
- U.S. condemns suspected Syrian chemical attack on civilians, but says the Assad government is a 'political reality'
- Canada's largest school board will end class trips to the U.S. due to Trump's travel restrictions
- Warplanes strike Syrian town already hit by chemical attack
- Vigilantes prowl Europe's border with a target: Muslim migrants
- A letter from Britain to the European Union will trigger the 'Brexit' process March 29
- Ukraine president suggests a Kremlin-orchestrated attack after former Russian lawmaker is shot dead in Kiev
- Russian officials say St. Petersburg subway blast killed at least 11 and injured dozens
- As death toll in hospital attack soars to 50, Afghanistan investigates whether it was an inside job
- South Korea's ousted leader moves out of palace, apologizes for 'not fulfilling my duties'
- A brazen political killing shakes Myanmar, already teetering on the path to democracy
- India's Narendra Modi leads his party to victory in a state with more than 200 million people
- A controversial Thai monk is wanted in connection with a fraud case. His followers won't give him up
- Another Dalit suicide on campus raises fears of a crisis of discrimination at Indian universities
- Syrian government insists it does not use chemical weapons; US vows serious response to attack
- Bodies of U.N. workers and interpreter found in Congo, prompting calls for investigation
- Hamas hangs 3 Palestinians in Gaza it says were collaborating with Israel
- Syrian ally Iran blasts U.S. missile strikes as 'dangerous, destructive and a violation of international law'
- India tries to clean up the holy city of Varanasi, but buffaloes and humans stand in the way