MADRID – Basque civil society organizations and international observers have hinted at the dissolution of the Basque militant group ETA this week.
Although details are unclear about when and how will the much-awaited declaration arrive, the announcement marks the end of a bloody chapter in recent European history.
In its goal to create an independent Basque country, ETA —which stands for Euskadi ta Askatasuna or "Basque Homeland and Freedom" in Basque— killed 853 people, most of them during the tumultuous years when Spain was transitioning from dictatorship to democracy.
A timeline of some major events since the group's founding 60 years ago traces the trajectory of the deadly conflict:
— 1958: ETA is created during Gen. Francisco Franco's dictatorship as a scission of youth organizations linked to the Basque Nationalist Party, or PNV. Its stated goal in early documents is to fight for Basque self-determination.
— 1968: In its first deadly attack, ETA kills civil guard officer Jose Pardines. His killer dies as a result of police gunfire.
— 1970: Death sentences for six ETA militants, later commuted for life imprisonment, spark street protests against Franco's regime.
— 1973: Powerful explosives planted by ETA in Madrid kill Franco's right hand and Prime Minister Luis Carrero Blanco as he returns from attending daily mass. Carrero dies on the spot.
— 1974: Twelve people die in a bomb attack on a Madrid cafe.
— 1975: Franco dies on Nov. 20.
— 1980: As Spain returns to democracy, ETA kills nearly 100 people, making 1980 the deadliest year in more than four decades of violent campaign.
— 1983: Members of Spain's security forces establish Anti-Terrorist Liberation Groups, or GAL, in an effort to fight ETA and undermine its supporters. Over the following four years, GAL killed some 30 people.
—1986: Twelve Civil Guard officers die in Madrid and 50 more people are wounded in a car-bomb attack in Madrid. Later that year, ETA also kills one of its own, former leader Dolores Gonzalez Katarain —also known as Yoyes— who had left the militant group to start a new life.
— 1987: In ETA's bloodiest attack, bombs in the parking lot of a shopping center in Barcelona kill 21 people and injure 45 more.
— 1989: ETA declares its first cease-fire and engages in peace talks in Algiers with the Spanish Socialist government. But the militant group breaks the negotiations by killing a Civil Guard officer. Central authorities begin the so-called dispersal policy that sends imprisoned militants to prisons scattered across Spain with the goal of weakening ETA's support network.
— 1992: The militant group suffers a major blow with the arrest of most of its leaders in Southern France.
— 1996: Francisco Tomas y Valiente, former president of Spain's Constitutional Court, shot and killed at the Autonomous University of Madrid.
— 1997: Jose Ortega Lara, a Spanish prison worker, regains freedom after 532 days of kidnapping, the longest in ETA's history. Shortly after, the organization kidnaps Miguel Angel Blanco, a young conservative councilor in the town of Ermua, and kills him after the government fails to meet the 48-hour deadline for transferring all ETA militants in custody to prisons in the Basque Country. The widespread protests in the wake of Blanco's assassination are considered a tipping point in the social opposition to ETA both in and outside the Basque region.
— 1998: A new ETA truce before a regional election ends the following year after a failed dialogue with the conservative government of Jose Maria Aznar.
— 2000: An ETA commando shoots and kills former Socialist Health Minister Ernest Lluch in Barcelona.
— 2002: A new law on political parties leads to a ban on Batasuna, a Basque separatist party, for its repeated support for ETA's violence.
— 2004: Bombs planted in Madrid by Al-Qaeda-inspired extremists kill 191 on March 11, three days before a general election. The government, which initially blames the attacks on ETA, loses the election to the Socialists led by Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero.
— 2006: A third cease-fire is declared while Basque politicians hold secret peace negotiations involving the future of imprisoned Basque militants. ETA breaks the truce with a car filled with bombs exploding in the parking lot of the Madrid airport, killing two Ecuadorian citizens.
— 2008: Police arrests in Southern France ETA's suspected operational leader, Garikoitz Aspiazu, also known as "Txeroki."
— 2010: A French police officer, Jean-Serge Nerin, is shot dead near Paris by militants fleeing after a car robbery, becoming ETA's last deadly victim. In autumn, the political reincarnation of Batasuna publicly rejects violence for the first time.
— 2011: A civil-society-led international peace conference in San Sebastian calls for ETA to declare a "definitive cease of its armed activity," which comes on Oct. 20 with the group declaring the "definitive end" to its terrorism. Spanish officials say ETA is believed to have less than 50 members.
—2017: ETA declares itself officially disarmed after handing over to French authorities dozens of weapons, ammunition and explosives. Spanish authorities demand for ETA to disband.
—2018: In a letter to a Spanish newspaper published May 2, ETA says it has "dissolved all its structures." The announcement comes less than two weeks after the group offered an unprecedented apology that victims, their relatives, the Spanish and Basque governments say is too late and insincere.