In an historic move the Spanish armed organisation known as Eta declared a unilateral cease fire on September 5th 2010. This particular group has been in operation since 1959 and has been committing terrorist acts since September 1986. In the past decade, however, their members have been relatively quiet, and they were wrongly accused of the 2004 Madrid bombings.
Eta are one of innumerable militant groups that exist throughout the world. In some countries, such as Spain, the everyday impact of these groups is minimal. In other countries, such as the Ivory Coast, miltary groups (in this case the Revolutionary United Front or RUF) can be responsible for countless years of civil wars and the millions of combatant and civillian deaths that this entails.
The United Nations General Assembly resolution 42/159 used, as its attempt to put words to the mindset and purpose of militant terrorists, the definition: "which endangers or takes innocent human lives or jeopardizes fundamental freedoms and ... acts of violence which lie in misery, frustration, grievance and despair and which cause some people to sacrifice human lives, including their own, in an attempt to effect radical changes."
In some cases, militant groups have been known to commit terrorist acts (the exception being if any combative acts are committed against a foreign invasive force, in which case they are no longer classed as illegal). Equally, there are militant groups that prefer to work through political means. In both cases, it is the belief in the need for "...radical changes..." that drives these citizens to arm themselves and, more often than not, commit themselves to a life of violence.
Militant: A group having a combative character, or a group that is actively fighting and being aggressive, especially in the service of a cause, is said to be militant. It is important to note the difference between a militant group and a terrorist organisation.
Conscription: The act of forcing a person (or persons) into military service. Many militant groups practice conscription, forcing local people to actively join in with their cause.