NEW CALEDONIA MOURNS U.S. VICTIMS OF TERRORISM

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NOUMÉA, New Caledonia (September 18, 2001 - Oceania Flash/SPC)---Over the weekend, officials and local residents organized several memorials and displays of sympathy for the victims of the terrorist attacks against the United States last week, the daily newspaper Les Nouvelles Calédoniennes reported.

On the official level, New Caledonia, being a French territory, aligned itself with the Europe-wide three minutes of silence in respect for the American victims of the suicide plane attacks.

In Saint Joseph’s cathedral in Nouméa, a special service took place and was attended by hundreds of New Caledonians.

All flags in the French territory are being flown at half-mast.

As in metropolitan France, the "vigi-pirate" plan, which involves tight security and reinforced police and military presence, has been applied.

During the weekend, New Caledonia's two Mc Donald's restaurants, as a private initiative, also decided to fly their commercial flags half-mast and some of the employees observed a minute of silence.

Participants in the SPC-organized 8th Conference on Women also observed a moment of silence.

At the American memorial, located in the heart of the capital, Nouméa, dozens spontaneously laid wreaths in memory of the victims. Others brought candles.

Monday night, an ecumenical church service took place on Nouméa's Coconut Square.

Another memorial mass is to be held at Saint Joseph’s cathedral on Wednesday. Nouméa’s Catholic archbishop, Michel-Marie Calvet, will conduct it.

"Everyone is invited to join, at least in thought," the archbishop's office said on Monday.

Another unexpected private initiative during the weekend was a memorial gathering of the local Harley Davidson bikers club: about 35 members drove through Nouméa at slow speed on Saturday morning.

"It was normal that we should demonstrate. This is a little bit like our family," a French biker said.

The bikers laid yet another wreath at the American memorial.

During the Second World War, New Caledonia was a key American base. Nouméa still bears many reminders of this U.S. Army’s past involvement, including buildings and street names.

Meanwhile, the pro-independence FLNKS (Kanak Socialist National Liberation Front) on Friday expressed solidarity to the "suffering American victims and their next of kin in a country that is a model for freedom."

FLNKS spokesman Victor Tutugoro went on to say: "Blind terrorism is to be condemned since it mainly strikes the innocent. Oppression and humiliation of the peoples inevitably leads to such despicable actions."

Tutugoro suggested one "should not forget the suffering endured by other peoples around the world, who have or still endure violence on a daily basis and in the name of a certain established order, whether in central Europe, in the Middle East, in central Asia or on the African continent.

"May this tragedy serve the great nations of this world in their quest for a balanced peace in respect of the people."

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