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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

ETA Ends 15-Month Cease-Fire

MADRID -- The armed Basque separatist group ETA called off its 15-month cease-fire in a statement Tuesday, formalizing what many saw as the demise of a once-promising peace process already struck down by a deadly bombing in December.

ETA said the truce it called in March 2006 would end at midnight Tuesday, and that after that it would be "active on all fronts to defend the Basque homeland." The move could mean a quick resumption of violence, and authorities say they are on high alert.

In a statement sent to two Basque newspapers, it blamed the government -- and particularly Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero -- for the failed peace process, accusing the Socialist leader of becoming a fascist.

"Zapatero's character has turned into a fascism that left parties and citizens without rights," ETA said.

It was a bitter pill for Zapatero, who had made ending the nearly 40-year conflict one of the main goals of his administration.

In a short televised speech, Zapatero said the truce had already ended with the December bombing and noted that ETA had declared cease-fires before, only to resume its armed campaign.

"Now, as it did then, ETA is again making a mistake," Zapatero said, vowing to remain tough against the militants. "ETA's decision goes totally in the opposite direction of the path that Basque and Spanish society want -- the path of peace."