Basque Separatist ETA's Complicated Ceasefire Record: Report

COLLEGE PARK, Md. - The Basque separatist group ETA has issued what it calls a "definitive cessation of its armed activity" - the seventh ceasefire announced by the organization since 1988, finds a new analysis by the National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism (START), based at the University of Maryland.

"ETA has recently had a tendency to issue ceasefires that are later violated," says Gary LaFree, director of START and a University of Maryland professor. "We will have to hope that this announcement will hold."

ETA has declared ceasefires, with varying degrees of adherence, in 1988, 1989, 1992, 1996, 1998, 2006, 2010, and reaffirmed most recently on October 20, 2011, the START report notes.

Based on START's comprehensive Global Terrorism Database, the report describes ETA as the fourth most active terrorist group in the world responsible for 2,005 terrorist attacks (1970 though 2010).

As LaFree puts it, "ETA is one of the longest running, most destructive terrorist organizations in the modern history of terrorism and one of the last major groups that originated in Western Europe in the 1960s and early 1970s."

Click to englarge table


In January 1988, ETA offered a 60-day truce for peace talks with the Spanish government. However, in February the group kidnapped Spanish businessman Emiliano Revilla and held him hostage for eight months, demanding a multi-million dollar ransom. The kidnapping was followed by a surge of bombings, shootings, and assassinations.

ETA's longest period of inactivity began in September 1998 when it announced that it had "decided to make its contribution to the new political scenario of dialogue by adjourning its armed activity." Again, with the exception of a few non-lethal events, likely perpetrated by dissident elements of the group, this cease-fire was largely successful.

In November 1999, however, it announced an end to the truce. In January 2000 ETA detonated a car bomb in Madrid killing one army officer and injuring two teenage girls.


ETA is responsible for more than 800 fatalities, the START report says. The organization's deadliest single attack occurred in 1987, when a bomb planted by the organization exploded in the parking garage of a department store in Barcelona, Spain. In all, 28 percent of all ETA's attacks resulted in at least one fatality.

The vast majority of ETA attacks occurred in Spain, but the group was active elsewhere in Europe, as well as in Mexico. ETA is responsible for 61 percent of all known terrorist attacks in Spain during this period.


The START analysis is available online:


Gary LaFree
301-518-2491 (Cell)

Jessica Rivinius
513-309-5843 (cell)


The National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism (START) is supported in part by the Science and Technology Directorate of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security through a Center of Excellence program based at the University of Maryland. START uses state-of-the-art theories, methods and data from the social and behavioral sciences to improve understanding of the origins, dynamics and social and psychological impacts of terrorism.


About Us

The University of Maryland is the state's flagship university and one of the nation's preeminent public research universities. Ranked No. 18 among public universities by U.S. News & World Report, it has 32 academic programs in the U.S News Top 10 and 73 in the Top 25. The university is recognized for its diversity, with underrepresented students comprising one-third of the student population.


Documents & Links