Basque group ETA claims new step toward disarming

AFP-JIJI

Basque separatist group ETA said it has dismantled the “logistical and operational structures” of its armed campaign in a step toward full disarmament, in a declaration published Sunday.

The move is the latest tortuous step toward a potential end to western Europe’s last major armed secessionist movement, once feared but now weakened by the arrests of many of its leaders.

In the declaration sent to Basque newspaper Gara, ETA said it had completed “dismantlement of the logistical and operational structures linked to the waging of the armed struggle” and was preparing to seal up its stashes of weapons.

Gara reported online on Saturday, along with advance excerpts from the declaration, that “a technical logistical structure is being created that aims to carry through to completion the sealing of the arms depots” held by ETA.

ETA, which is branded a terrorist group by the United States and European Union, said the move aimed to bring about “a transition from armed confrontation to democratic confrontation.”

ETA is blamed for the killing of 829 people in a four-decade campaign of bombings and shootings for an independent homeland in parts of northern Spain and southern France.

In October 2011 it declared a “definitive end” to armed activity and in February this year international monitors released a video of weapons which it said ETA was putting out of use. But the group has not formally disbanded, as the Spanish and French governments demand.