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ETA's troubled year

Anti-ETA march (file)
Anti-ETA marches have followed many of the group's bomb attacks  

By CNN's Al Goodman

Spanish politicians believe the militant Basque separatists of ETA are fighting a losing battle after a tumultuous year.

In 2001 ETA targeted holiday resorts, the Spanish capital, local politicians and the judiciary.

But experts tell CNN that two events have turned the tide against the men of violence - September 11 and the Irish Republican Army's decision to begin decommissioning.

The pressure has been intense on ETA with police arresting more than 100 ETA suspects in Spain and in ETA's traditional rearguard in France.

Leaders of the government's Popular Party say ETA's terrorist tactics is leaving it and its moderate supporters increasingly isolated in Europe.

In-depth: Violence in Spain 

Gustavo Aristegui, from the party, said: "There is a lower degree of, I would say, understanding, or even tolerance towards terrorism in the world and definitely in Europe, and people are not making distinctions about terrorism anymore."

Even moderate Basque leaders who favour independence, but not the violence, say ETA has had a difficult year.

Inaki Anasagasti, of the Basque Nationalist Party, said: "ETA's only success is killing, because there's no serious political project behind it. Politically, this has been the worst year in ETA's long history of violence."

There were also setbacks at the polls. The leftist Batasuna party, widely seen as ETA's political wing, lost half its seats in elections for Basque regional parliament last May. But the party remains defiant.

Spokesman Arnaldo Otegi said: "We don't contemplate a military defeat of ETA. Police pressure won't change ETA's policies because a clandestine armed organisation already knows it will have police pressure."

One of ETA's most devastating attacks in 2001 was a car bomb in Madrid which wounded 90 people.

Newsstand owner Antonio Garanena, one of the casualties, said: "I opened the newsstand door and there was a young girl and her mother, both injured, pleading for help. A car was burning. It was horrible."

But the attack also turned one man, who has since remained anonymous, into a national hero.

He saw the bombers flee and decided to give chase. He called police on his mobile phone and minutes later they were in custody.


• ETA suspects detained
December 18, 2001
• EU names terror groups
December 28, 2001

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