Timeline: A history of Eta

1959: During the Franco dictatorship, a group of student radicals founds Euskadi ta Askatasuna (Basque Homeland and Freedom, Eta), a clandestine group that advocates an independent Basque state.

1961: Eta’s first attack: a failed attempt to derail a train carrying veterans of the Spanish civil war (1936-39)

1973: Eta car bomb kills prime minister Carrero Blanco – Gen Franco’s anointed successor.

1975: Franco dies. Moderate Basque political parties legalised in the following years. Eta begins its bloodiest period of terrorist violence, claiming more than 650 victims by 1992.

1982: “Dirty war” begins, with state sponsored paramilitaries hunting down Eta members.

1988-89: Eta offers Socialist government several truces in return for peace talks. Contacts amount to nothing.

1995: Assassination attempt on José María Aznar, opposition leader and future prime minister. Security forces foil an Eta plan to assassinate King Juan Carlos in Palma de Mallorca.

1996: Aznar’s conservative Popular party forms government. Aznar seeks a peace deal and sends envoys to meet Eta in Geneva.

1998: Eta announces truce.

1999: Local elections in May, in which Batasuna, Eta’s political wing, polls 150,000 votes in the Basque country, about 15 per cent of the total. In November, Eta breaks off truce.

2002: Batasuna outlawed in Spain. It is listed as a terrorist group by the European Union.

2004: Islamist radicals kill 191 people in Madrid train bombings. Aznar initially blames Eta for the attacks. Socialist party wins a general election three days after the train bombings.

2005: Prime minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero offers peace talks in return for disarmament.

2006: Eta announces a “permanent ceasefire” in March. On December 30, ceasefire is broken with a car bomb at Madrid’s Barajas airport that kills two Ecuadoreans. Government calls off negotiations. Eta says ceasefire “still holds”.

May 2009: The first non-nationalist government in three decades is voted into office in Basque Country.

July 2009: Two police officers were killed and others injured when a bomb went off under their vehicle outside a Civil Guard police station on Mallorca.

Sept 2010: Eta says it will stop carrying out “offensive armed attacks” and is ready to negotiate and take part in democracy to win independence for the Basque country. The interior minister dismisses the announcement, saying that the militants can not be trusted.

Jan 2011: Eta declares a “permanent and general ceasefire”, after a series of arrests of its military leaders in recent months. Government rejects this statement as inadequate.

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