Bombings threaten to derail Corsica's peace talks

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The Independent Online

A series of unclaimed bomb attacks is threatening to destabilise the peace process in Corsica. Although bombings are commonplace on the island, the latest attacks appear to be aimed directly at undermining the negotiations on limited autonomy for Corsica begun by the French Prime Minister, Lionel Jospin, in December 1999.

The bombers have targeted the French state, by placing devices outside two gendarmerie barracks, which caused destruction but no serious injuries. They have also sent mail bombs – unsuccessfully – to moderate leaders of the independence movement.

The attacks, eight in the last month, have increased the climate of uncertainty before the annual gathering of nationalist factions over the weekend and before the resumption of autonomy talks in September.

Some moderate nationalists have pointed the finger of suspicion at a dissident independence leader, François Santoni, and the Armata Corsa, a clandestine organisation which is said to support him. Members of the group were questioned by police at the weekend. Mr Santoni has, however, blamed the bombings on the French state.

Another, more moderate, nationalist leader, François Sargentini, has also suggested that dissident agents of the French government, opposed to autonomy for the island, may be involved. "The government itself is not responsible, but an element of the state apparatus may be," he said.

Such allegations may seem wild but, in Corsica, nothing can be discounted. In November, Bernard Bonnet, the former Prefect of Corsica (senior national government representative), will be charged with blowing up two restaurants and blaming the attacks on the independence movement.