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Timeline: Key events in history of Basque separatists ETA

(Reuters) - On Monday, high-profile international figures who helped broker solutions to the Northern Ireland conflict and South Africa’s apartheid attended a peace conference in San Sebastian on the conflict in the Basque country.

Spanish media reported that ETA could issue a statement in response renouncing violence.

Here is a timeline of some major events since the founding of ETA, whose initials stand for Euskadi ta Askatasuna (Basque Homeland and Freedom).

1959 - ETA is formed during dictatorship of General Francisco Franco to fight for Basque self-determination.

1968 - ETA carries out first killing: victim is Meliton Manzanas, police chief in the Basque city of San Sebastian.

1973 - Franco’s Prime Minister Luis Carrero Blanco is killed when his car drives over explosives planted by ETA in Madrid.

1980 - In its bloodiest year, ETA kills nearly 100 people despite Spain’s return to democracy.

1983 - Members of Spanish security forces set up Anti-Terrorist Liberation Groups (GAL) to fight covert war against ETA. GAL kills 28 people from 1983-1987.

September 1985 - First ETA car bomb explodes in Madrid. A U.S. tourist is killed and 16 Civil Guards wounded.

July 1986 - Twelve Civil Guards are killed in Madrid and 50 wounded. Juan Manuel Soares, a repentant Basque separatist, is sentenced to 1,401 years in jail in April 2000 for the killings.

June 1987 - Twenty-one shoppers are killed by a bomb at a Barcelona supermarket. ETA apologizes.

1993 - Socialists win another election, but with a slim majority. They gradually lose support, tainted by scandal surrounding the government’s role in the so-called GAL.

July 1997 - ETA kidnaps and kills Popular Party member and Ermua town councilor Miguel Angel Blanco.

September 1998 - ETA announces a truce which ends in December 1999.

November 21, 2000 - Socialist Former Health Minister Ernest Lluch shot dead in Barcelona.

March 11, 2004 - Train bombs, planted by Islamic radicals connected with al Qaeda, kill 191 people in Madrid. Government initially attributes attacks to ETA.

-- Three days later a general election gives surprise victory to Socialists, led by Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero.

October 10, 2004 - New Socialist Prime Minister Zapatero appeals to ETA to give up the fight after the arrest of a suspected leader.

March 22, 2006 - ETA declares a permanent ceasefire, which comes into force two days later.

December 30 - Car bomb explodes at Madrid airport killing two Ecuadorians. Zapatero breaks off peace process.

December 1, 2007 - ETA suspects kill two Guardia Civil policemen working undercover in France.

January 14, 2008 - Zapatero rules out any chance of peace talks with ETA and says its only option is unilateral surrender.

-- March 7 - Isaias Carrasco, former councilor for the Socialist Party, is killed in Mondragon. ETA later claims responsibility.

-- November 5 - ETA claims responsibility for 10 bombings and says it will press its campaign for Basque rights.

-- November 17 - ETA’s suspected military leader, Garikoitz Aspiazu Rubina, known by aliases “Txeroki” or “Cherokee,” is arrested in France’s Pyrenean region, near the Spanish border.

-- December 3 - Ignacio Uria, owner of the construction company Altuna y Uria, is shot dead in Azpeitia. ETA later claims responsibility for the killing.

-- December 8 - French police announce the arrest of a man identified as Balak, presumed successor to Txeroki.

April 18, 2009 - Jurdan Martitegi, ETA’s new military leader known as “the giant,” is arrested in southern France.

-- August 9 - ETA claims responsibility for bombs in the previous two months which killed three policemen and injured 46.

-- November 14 - Batasuna calls for talks between ETA and Spain based on principles used in Northern Ireland’s peace process. Spain rejects the overtures the next day.

February 28, 2010 - Ibon Gogeascoechea, ETA’s latest top leader and on the run since 1997, is arrested in Normandy.

-- March 17 - A French police officer is shot and killed near Paris after suspected ETA rebels fire on his patrol while leaving a car robbery scene.

-- September 5 - ETA decides to stop carrying out armed attacks, according to a statement published by Basque-language newspaper Gara on its website.

-- September 26 - ETA lays out conditions for an end to its violent campaign, warning that it reserves the right to defend itself during a so-called “ceasefire.”

-- October 28 - Batasuna says it will reject violence in its drive to be legalized but the government says it must go further to be able to participate in elections.

January 10, 2011 - “ETA has decided to declare a permanent and general ceasefire, which may be verified by the international community,” says a statement published on the website of Basque regional newspaper Gara.

-- Spain rejects the ceasefire. Deputy Prime Minister Alfredo Perez Rubalcaba says ETA must permanently renounce violence and put a definitive and irreversible end to its activities.

September 23 - ETA prisoners across Spain and France join a call for a permanent ceasefire by the separatist group. The government says the next day that the move is welcome but is welcome but does not go far enough as ETA must disband.

October 1 - Spain’s banned Ekin organization, a support group for ETA, decides to disband.

October 17 - High-profile figures including former U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan and Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams attended a conference in San Sebastian, the Basque region, as pressure intensified on ETA to renounce violence.

Reporting by David Cutler, London Editorial Reference Unit; Editing by Sophie Hares