Corsica death spurs women's peace group

Bastia bomb: As in Northern Ireland in the 1970s, there is a backlash against violence - but the precedent is not promising

The Corsican nationalist killed by a car bomb in the city of Bastia on Monday was buried in his native village of Lucciana yesterday evening, with full paramilitary honours.

Despite appeals from police that the funeral should be held in accordance with the law, a commando unit from the paramilitary FLNC-Canal Historique fired three shots over the coffin before it was lowered into the grave. Pierre Lorenzi was a leader of the movement's political front organisation, Conculta.

The national secretary of Conculta, Charles Pieri, was believed to have been the main target of the attack, in which 14 other people were hurt. He suffered extensive injuries, as did a third member of Conculta. They were leaving the offices of their company, a security firm, when the bomb exploded.

With politicians in Paris still shocked by the force of the attack, the first in Corsica's recent history of violence to have caused indiscriminate injury, the Prime Minister, Alain Juppe, said the government would show "firmness and intransigence" in response to the car bomb attack. Blaming "20 years of government procrastination" for the current level of violence in Corsica, he denied that his ministers had conducted secret talks with nationalist groups and insisted they dealt only with "those who accepted the rules of the democratic game - elected representatives, no one else". A dozen or so known nationalists were detained in Corsica overnight, and the chief of the French national police force, Claude Gueant, was dispatched to Bastia from Paris.

One glimmer of hope has been provided over the past six months by a women's peace movement, similar in origins and sentiments to the women's peace movement in Ireland and founded by women who have lost - or who fear losing - husbands and sons.

The Manifesto for Life was officially founded in January. Among the founders was Laetitia Sozzi, 30, whose husband Robert, a member of the FLNC -Canal Historique, was murdered after he questioned the links between the group and "dirty money" circulating in the building sector in Corsica.

The women, whose Manifesto demonstrations regularly attract more than 1,000 people, say they "reject the establishment of a system based on terror" and insist that "no one should have cause to fear ... because of the violence of a minority".

More than 48 hours after the attack, no group had admitted responsibility for the bomb, and police were enforcing a news blackout. In the resulting vacuum, all manner of theories circulated. The most popular centred on political, personal or business rivalries. Lorenzi was a business partner of Charles Pieri. The nationalists have split many times over, and have directed as much violence against each other as against French targets.

In Corsica, however, a spokesman for the Movement for Self-Determination, the political front of FLNC-Canal Habituel, the main nationalist rival to Conculta, condemned the killing. The move seemed to quash one theory, that the car bomb was a revenge attack for the murder 10 months ago of one of the movement's leaders, Pierre Albertini.

A more sinister theory, advanced by a spokesman for yet another nationalist group, the Accolta Naziunale Corsa, was that none of the nationalists was directly involved and the attack was a staged "provocation" from outside. "Outside" could mean opponents of nationalism in Corsica, or even - though this was not stated openly - inspired by Paris. He said it was "inconceivable" that nationalists could direct such violence against each other.

The initial horror at the Bastia bomb has given way to a mixture of pessimism and perverse optimism. The bomb may be a harbinger of worse to come.

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