Spanish Basque separatist group ETA dissolves after 54 years

May 2 (UPI) — The Spanish Basque separatist group ETA said it’s dissolving after more than a half-century, during which more than 800 people died amid its campaign.

ETA, considered a terrorist organization by the European Union, sent letters to organizations in Spain’s northeastern Basque region last month.

The letters, meant to show the group’s decision is “definite and conclusive,” said ETA will dissolve all structures and “has terminated its political initiatives.” The declaration acknowledges the formal end of its mission.

A formal dissolution ceremony in the French town of Cambo-les-Bains is scheduled for this weekend.

The group’s name is an acronym of “Euskadi Ta Askatasuna,” or “Basque Homeland and Liberty” in the Basque language.

In its 54-year campaign for an independent Basque republic, ETA was responsible for the deaths of 853 people in the Basque Autonomous Community and the nearby Chartered Community of Navarre. Hundreds more disappeared or were injured.

Last month, the group apologized for its past violence, saying it accepts “direct responsibility” for years of bloodshed — and asked for forgiveness for the deaths of people without “a direct participation in the conflict.”

Nearly half the deaths attributed to ETA have not been fully investigated, and many Basques feel there remain issues to be resolved before peace can be established.

A report by the regional government last year noted 4,000 documented cases of torture by ETA security forces between 1960 and 2014. Only 20 cases resulted in court sentences.

The letters said the Basque community now faces “a new opportunity to definitively close the cycle of conflict and build a future between us all.”

While ETA’s attempt to create a sovereign Basque state was ineffective, the Basque region has more autonomy today than any of Spain’s 17 regions — with its own police force, education system, language and financial relationship with the federal government. The special powers were granted by Spain to the region in a new constitution in 1978.