Eta breaks silence to threaten fresh wave of violent protests

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The Independent Online

The militant Basque separatist group Eta stepped back into the spotlight yesterday after months of lying low, saying it would continue armed actions in pursuit of an independent homeland.

The militant Basque separatist group Eta stepped back into the spotlight yesterday after months of lying low, saying it would continue armed actions in pursuit of an independent homeland.

"When the rights of our country and our people are recognised, the conflict will be over," one of three gunmen said in a videotape to Gara newspaper. The 15-minute tape shows suspected Eta members holding guns in an unidentified forest.

"Thanks to the armed struggle, the Basque country sees the way forward to freedom," the spokesman said, in the Basque language, Euskera. He rejected proposals by the Basque regional president, Juan Jose Ibarretxe, to achieve independence by consensus. "We will accept no plan based on the reform of the statute [of autonomy with Spain] ... Such partial formulas will prolong the conflict."

The tape is Eta's most high-profile public statement since the Madrid train bombings in March, which the government initially blamed on Basque terrorists. Eta has undertaken no acts of bloodshed since the bombings that killed 191, but is blamed for small-scale violence throughout the summer in northern resorts that injured six.

Eta placed 16 bombs near electricity lines near the border between France and Spain at the weekend, half of which exploded without causing damage. Basque officials have warned that separatist gunmen might resume attacks on big targets.

"The only Eta statement I'm interested in is one saying it will disappear and leave Basque society alone," said Jose Jon Imaz, spokesman for the region's ruling Basque Nationalist Party. "The rest is blackmail, threats and lack of respect."

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