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Basque Fatherland and Liberty (ETA) Factsheet

Source: Foreign Terrorist Organizations, Congressional Research Service Report

Name(s). Basque Fatherland and Liberty; Euzkadi Ta Askatasuna, ETA

Goals and Objectives. ETA aims to establish a Basque homeland based on Marxist principles in the ethnically Basque areas in northern Spain and southwestern France.

Brief History. ETA was founded in 1959 by Basque Marxist rebels incensed by the efforts of Spanish dictator Francisco Franco to suppress the Basque language and culture. Since then the group has carried out numerous attacks in Spain and some in France. More than 800 people have been killed in ETA attacks since its founding.86 The group is best known for assassinating high level Spanish officials. In 1973, the group assassinated Admiral Luis Carrero Blanco, the heir apparent to Franco, and in 1995 Spanish politician and now president Jose Maria Aznar narrowly escaped an attack. Spanish King Juan Carlos was also the target of an unsuccessful plot. In addition, the group has targeted lower-level officials, journalists, and civilians.87

In the past two years, the Spanish government has made important breakthroughs against ETA, arresting over 120 suspected members and accomplices, seizing assets, and disrupting planned operations. France has also recently arrested a number of suspected members. ETA apparently does not enjoy broad support among Basques: often its attacks are followed by anti-violence demonstrations, and moderate political parties that reject violence do much better at polls than do parties supportive of ETA.88 In general, ETA seems to be declining: the number of attacks and killings has fallen (from 43 in 2001 to 20 in 2002), its financial assets appear to have been squeezed through international cooperation, and its reported IRA collaboration has been hurt by the Irish group’s cease fire.89

Favored Tactics. ETA has conducted bombings, shootings, kidnappings, and assassinations. Anti-American Activities. ETA has not been known to target Americans or U.S. interests.

Areas of Operation. ETA operates mainly in the Basque regions of Spain and France which include Alava, Guipuzcoa, Navarra and Vizcaya. The group has also carried out attacks throughout Spain.

Strength and Composition. The U.S. State Department’s Patterns of Global Terrorism, 2002 estimates ETA’s strength at several hundred members, plus supporters.90

Connections With Other Terrorist Organizations. The group apparently has links to the Irish Republican Army, and some believe that it has often followed the IRA’s lead in terms of tactics and operations.91 Terrorism experts believe that ETA may also have helped Colombian terrorists to bomb a social club in Bogota in early 2003.92

State Supporters and Other Sources of Funding. ETA members have reportedly received training in Lebanon, Libya, Yemen, and Nicaragua, as well as sanctuary in Cuba. The ETA finances itself through kidnappings, robberies, and extortion.93 The group has been known to rob banks, traffic in drugs, and extort money from businesses in the Basque regions.94

Originally Designated as an FTO. October 8, 1997.

Re-designated. October 8, 1999, October 5, 2001.

Issues of Concern for Congress. The measures taken by the United States and its allies to freeze ETA resources have apparently had an effect upon funding for the group. While some Basques in the United States have sympathy for Basque selfdetermination, it does not appear that expatriates in the U.S. are providing resources for the violent activities of the ETA. Some terrorism experts point to Spanish government measures in dealing with the ETA, especially in recent years, as a case study of effective state counterterrorism, although not all would agree. Others are concerned about the very hard political line that has been taken against further Basque autonomy, including against moderates who are not engaged in violence.Recent cooperation between France and Spain in dealing with the ETA, as well as measures instituted by the European Union, are arguably an example of effective transnational counterterrorism.


86 U.S. Department of State, Patterns of Global Terrorism, 2002, pp. 105.
87 “Terrorism: Questions and Answers: Basque Fatherland and Liberty (ETA),” The Council on Foreign Relations and the Markle Foundation,
[http://www.terrorismanswers.org/ groups/eta.html], accessed on July 25, 2003.
88 Support for the ETA does exist; however, it has been severely weakened. Ibid.
89 Keith B. Richburg, “Long Basque Rebellion Losing Strength: International Effort Squeezes Underground Separatist Group,” The Washington Post, December 11, 2003, p. A1.
90 U.S. Department of State, Patterns of Global Terrorism, 2002, p. 105.
91 David Trimble, “In Northern Ireland, A Question of Trust,” The Washington Post, November 30, 2002.
92 Tim Johnson, “Hand of Irish or Basque Terrorists Seen in Deadly Colombian Bombing,” San Diego Union-Tribune, February 12, 2003.
93 U.S. Department of State, Patterns of Global Terrorism, 2002, pp. 105.
94 “Terrorism Database,” Periscope, USNI Database, www.periscope1.com.