NEW CALEDONIA OBSERVES OUVEA HOSTAGE ANNIVERSARY

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SUVA, Fiji (Oceania Flash, April 24) - Authorities in New
Caledonia on Tuesday commemorated the 15th anniversary of the tragic hostage
crisis on Ouvéa Island which ended in a bloodbath on April 22, 1988, RFO’s
Télé-Nouvelle-Calédonie reports.

Both in the capital Nouméa and in other parts of the French
territory, ceremonies were held to commemorate the tragic event.

An "April 22 Committee," mainly consisting of serving
and retired French gendarmes, laid wreaths on memorials.

Warrant Officer Jean Coquet, who was among the hostages 15 years
ago, was representing the French gendarmes families at another ceremony on
Ouvéa Island.

In Nouméa, government member Pierre Maresca, Southern Province’s
Jean-Claude Briault and Nouméa Lord Mayor Jean Lèques also took part in a
ceremony. A church service was also held in Nouméa.

Fifteen years ago, as New Caledonia was facing the worst spate
of civil unrest in its history, a group of pro-independence Kanaks seized a
small police post at Fayaoué on Ouvéa Island.

Four gendarmes, two mobile police and one Kanak were killed and
another 27 gendarmes were held hostage.

Twelve were released three days later as the hostage takers took
the remaining 16 to the nearby Gossanah Grotto.

On April 27, seven more gendarmes and a magistrate were also
captured as they were trying to negotiate with the hostage takers.

On May 5, 1988, in between the two rounds of the French
presidential election, Operation Victor, believed to have involved French army,
gendarmes and 75 special forces, was launched on the Gossannah grotto.

Two French soldiers and 19 Kanaks were killed, some of whom in
dubious circumstances.

Witnesses have since repeatedly alleged some of the hostage
takers coming out to surrender were shot dead.

April 25, 2003

Oceania Flash: E-mail/Courriel:
padec@iname.com 

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