Euskadi Ta Azkatasuna, which is translated as “Basque Homeland and Freedom”, started as a group promoting traditional Basque culture before transforming itself into a paramilitary organisation. ETA has been fighting for an independent French state in the Basque region and believes in independence for the seven regions in northern Spain and south-west France that Basque separatists claim as their own.
At the height of its violence in the late 1970s, the group was able to kill 100 people per year on average.
But after three people were killed in 2003, ETA refrained from any other deadly attacks – a ceasefire that lasted until the last days of 2006.
The ETA of today has some logistical networks in France and a pool of a few hundred youths scattered across the borders of the Basque Country, in France and Spain, willing to engage in deadly missions.
The arrest of ETA’s suspected military head, Garikoitz Aspiazu Rubina, in November 2008, followed the detention of its political commander, Javier Lopez Pena, six months earlier.
Support for ETA is also being squeezed amid a growing feeling that it is out of touch with public opinion.
In January last year the group announced a “permanent ceasefire” and has been urged to hand over its weapons and apologise to victims.