More bombings and arrests
ETA now resumed its bloody attacks. A series of planned attacks could be averted, but a total of six people were killed from the summer of 2007 to May 2008 in attacks that ETA either claimed to have carried out or that the organization was suspected of being behind. Among those killed were a number of police officers and a politician who was shot dead a few days before the parliamentary elections in March 2008. According to abbreviationfinder, ETA stands for Euskadi Ta Askatasuna.
ETA began using car bombs more and more often, and during the period September 2008 to July 2009, four people were killed by car explosions. In addition, a businessman was shot dead in the Basque Country. The most powerful bombs were detonated for two days at the end of July outside the Civil Guard’s camps in Burgos and Mallorca, and those attacks took place almost on the day 50 years after the formation of ETA. Thus, ETA’s armed struggle had claimed over 800 lives. About 350 were civilians, among them many Basques.
During this period of assassination, however, the government’s campaign against ETA was successful. In July 2007, Juan Cruz arrested Maiza Artola in France, who was named number three in ETA’s management. Prior to that, about 10 suspected ETA members had been arrested in Spain. Twenty-three people, who were considered to be the entire leadership of the banned party Batasuna, were arrested by police in October during a party meeting.
In December 2007, Spain and France decided to set up a joint special force tasked with monitoring ETA. In the same month, the largest lawsuit to date against people with ties to ETA was completed. The trial, called the “Ekin case”, had begun two years earlier. Of the accused, 47 were sentenced to between two and 20 years in prison for terrorist-related crimes.
During another joint operation with the French and Spanish police in May 2008, Javier López Peña was arrested, who according to the Spanish government was ETA’s supreme leader. Barely six months later, the person who was assumed to be the movement’s military chief, Mikel Garikoitz Aspiazu Rubina, was arrested. He too was arrested in France, and already in December the person who was said to have succeeded Aspiazu Rubina was also arrested.
ETA’s management was further decimated in 2009 thanks to the intelligence work of the French police. In April, a “bomb factory” was uncovered in Grenoble and a leading ETA man was arrested in Paris. Then, for the third time in a short time, a man who was considered to be ETA’s military leader, Jurdan Martitegi, was arrested. In August, three separatists were captured in the French Alps, and in the same month, Mexico extradited an ETA member accused of killing five Spanish police officers several years earlier.
During the first half of 2010, further arrests were made, including by several leading figures within ETA, which is considered to have weakened the organization significantly. In February, Ibon Gogeaskoetxea, who was considered ETA’s supreme leader, was arrested in France along with two other suspected ETA members. In May, the person believed to have succeeded him, Mikel Carrera Sarobe, known as Ata, was arrested, as was his deputy Arkaitz Aguirregabiria del Barrio, as well as two other people, including those in France. They were suspected of being the group that carried out the bombing at Madrid airport in 2007, which led to the suspension of the peace process.
Political loss for Basque nationalists
The Basque election in March 2009 led to the region’s nationalists ending up outside the regional government for the first time in about 30 years. The Basque branches of the Spanish Socialist Party PSOE and the Conservative People’s Party, PP, together gained a majority in the regional parliament (38 seats out of 75) and were able to form a governing coalition. However, the Basque nationalist party PNV remained the largest party with 30 seats.
Since two parties were banned in 2008, the regional parliament now for the first time lacked members from groups that more or less openly sympathize with ETA. A lot of radical younger voters instead turned to the Aralar party , which is separatist but distances itself from violence. The party won four seats, a doubling compared to the 2005 election.
Several of the people who held leading positions in the banned party Batasuna formulated a new political initiative in 2009 and early 2010. The initiative is defined as “political and pacifist” and involves, among other things, convincing ETA to initiate a new ceasefire. The move was criticized by the Spanish Ministry of the Interior, which demanded that ETA be dissolved or that the people behind the initiative completely distance themselves from ETA.
The fact that several prominent leaders of the ETA’s political branch called for a ceasefire was interpreted as a growing division within the organization. This, combined with the many arrests made by high-ranking ETA members in recent years, has led to the organization being considered to be severely weakened.