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ETA hands French authorities weapons cache list

The Basque separatist group ETA has formally given French authorities a list of eight locations pinpointing its weapons, ammunition and explosives in a crucial move towards disarmament.

French interior minister Matthias Fekl said a police operation is under way to find the arms caches.

Mr Fekl said: "It's a great step, an unquestionably important day."

Representatives of the self-appointed Peace Artisans activist group, acting as mediators in the disarmament process, told reporters that the total number of weapons included 120 firearms and three tonnes of explosives and ammunition.

"We hope that with this the movement can move forward to a long-lasting peace in the Basque country," Mixel Berhokoirigoin said.

He said fellow activists were deployed at each location until French authorities arrive to take possession of the weapons.

The International Verification Commission, in charge of verifying the process, said the list of caches communicated to them by the Peace Artisans group "was immediately conveyed to the relevant French authorities, who will now secure and collect ETA's arsenal".

Inactive for more than five years, ETA had said it would hand over its arms, a historic step following a 43-year campaign which claimed 829 lives, mostly in Spain.

Disarmament is the second-to-last step demanded by France and Spain, which want ETA to formally disband. The organisation has not said whether it would do that.

A spokesman for the ruling party in the Basque Country's regional government in Spain called the disarmament "historically relevant".

"It's important that the disarmament takes place because each and every (weapon) has its history," Joseba Egibar said, as reported by Europa Press.

"It's the history of who carried them and the pain and suffering of so many years."

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