Fronte di Liberazione Naziunale Corsu
Front de la Liberation Nationale de la Corse [FLNC]
The October 22 splinter group of the National Liberation Front of Corsica (FLNC) said on 02 May 2016 it would end "military operations", two years after the main militant movement on the French island laid down its arms. The group made the announcement during a nighttime news conference at a location unknown to the six journalists present, in line with FLNC practice since its formation in May 1976.
It said its decision was to allow the island's new assembly, led by nationalists, "to fulfil its mandate calmly". However, the spokesman said: "The end of military operations does not mean a laying down of weapons."
The main FLNC movement known as the Combattants Union (UC) announced in June 2014 that it planned to end its armed struggle. The FLNC, which was set up in 1976, and various other factions intent on self-rule staged hundreds of attacks in Corsica. They demanded the recognition of the "national rights of the Corsican people", including citizenship, language and culture. There have been thousands of attacks in the 40-year struggle during which nine police officers have been killed. The FLNC had also been blamed for armed robberies and extortion through so-called revolutionary taxes.
It must be admitted that Corsicans have always been revengeful, but they are as a people hospitable and honest. Formerly, when blood had been shed, there was a custom of proclaiming the war of revenge, and announcing to what degree of relationship it should extend; but by the late 19th Century this custom had gone out of use. Frequently, in the practice of this system of vengeance, each of two sets of relatives had a murder to revenge upon the other; the vendetta, that is, crossed. This was called the vendetta trarmversale. The duty of taking vengeance lay primarily and especially upon the next of kin. Not to take revenge, was deemed in the highest degree dishonorable; and any delay in doing so on the part of the next of kin was made matter of reproach by his relatives. he vendetta of Corsica — about which so much has been written — was analogous to the vendetta which formerly prevailed in parts of Greece; in Albania; and among other wild mountaineers divided into jealous and often hostile clans. It existed in full force in the Highlands of Scotland, as it does today in Afghanistan.
The island of Corsica has a turbulent past and present. With a population of only 260,000, and a social structure based on clan-affiliations and tightly knit clientelistic networks, Corsica is a unique part of France. Historically, Corsica’s strong and violent independence movement has also shaped the local criminal landscape. Some independence fighters were transformed into organised criminals, taking over large parts of the local economy through extortion or racketeering.
Culturally and in terms of describing the specifics of organised crime on the island, Corsica is often compared to Sicily. Since 1930s Corsican organised crime and its ‘godfathers’ (parrains) have formed part of the French criminal elite. Following the French Connection (dubbed the Corsican Connection) many of these individuals were jailed or fled to Spain, but never ended their involvement in criminal activities. Today, many continue to be at the core of organised crime in Corsica.
Analyzing organised crime in Corsica is challenging as the lines between organised crime and clandestine independence groups are blurred. The latter are involved in criminal activities, often under the guise of furthering the cause of independence. At the same time, both types of groups have significant stakes in the legal economy, where they also use corruption. In addition, the notion of ‘corruption’ takes on an entirely different meaning than one would find in the north of France. Nationalistic, clan, political, or local affiliations establish powerful rules of relations, in which a straightforward materialistic motivation of corrupt behaviour could be entirely absent: i.e. even though someone’s behaviour could appear to be corrupt, the underlying reasons might be much more complex than simple material gain.
Corsica has an outsize reputation among continental French, many of whom refuse to visit this island of approximately 250,000 inhabitants because they fear they will be targeted. Clearly, though, Corsican separatism does not occupy the attention of French policymakers the way it did in the 1980s and 1990s. For over 30 years, a wave of low-scale terrorism and its spillover to the French mainland never reached alarming levels by today’s standards. Only dozens of people were killed as a result of various attacks during the entire span of the uprising.
The Corsican separatist movement rose from the anti-colonial ferment of the 1950s and 60s. France considered Corsica to be a colony like Tunisia and Algeria. As an example, Corsicans fought in World War I as part of the Overseas (Colony) Forces. A common belief that the French government ignored Corsica because it was an "insignificant" colony led to the first stirrings of the separatist movement in the 1970s. At that time, tankers regularly fouled the beaches and shoreline of Corsica, and the national government was seen by many Corsicans as unwilling to protect them.
The Fronte di Liberazione Naziunale Corsu / Front de la Liberation Nationale de la Corse [FLNC] separatist movement started in 1976 in response to the dumping of toxic waste by an Italian multinational near the town of Bastia. Thirty years later, the FLNC had shattered into many splinter groups, and the major demands of Corsican separatists - respect and recognition - had been granted. These include the significant level of self-government, the mandatory teaching of the Corsican language in schools, and the strict environmental protections that keep Corsica clean.
As with the IRA and ETA, with the Front for the Liberation of Corsica (FLNC), nationalist ideology was combined with a Marxist revolutionary message which enabled them to plug in to the international Communist network of support for terrorist groups. Corsican independentist terrorists engaged in coordinated multi-site attacks known as “blue nights.” These groups have evolved into criminal organizations, presenting an extremely difficult and challenging problem than that of purely politically motivated terrorism. Typical militant acts by the Fronte di Liberazione Naziunale Corsu (FLNC) are bombings, aggravated assault, armed bank robbery and extortion through ‘revolutionary taxes,’ and these actions are mostly aimed at public buildings, banks, touristic infrastructure, military buildings and other symbols of French control. Usually the attack is against buildings and infrastructure, and not against persons. The overwhelming majority of their attacks on the French mainland take place in or around the cities of Nice, Marseilles and Avignon.
On July 26, 1992 a group of individuals hired a helicopter in Corsica for an aerial photography excursion but over-powered the pilot and forced him to fly to Cavallo, a small island between Corsica and Sardinia. They were armed and carried explosives in an ice chest. On Cavallo, they bombed several luxury apartments before returning in the helicopter to Corsica and abandoning the pilot and aircraft. This attack was claimed as an "action against the Mafia" by Resistenza, the violent wing of the separatist Corsican National Liberation Front (FLNC).
On August 11, 1992 several armed individuals seized control of a helicopter belonging to the Heliscope Company and forced its pilot to land at the end of a runway at Bastia Airport, blocking an Air Inter aircraft that was about to depart. The Air Inter passengers and crew were held at gunpoint while the aircraft was searched and mail service bags taken from the cargo hold. The bags reportedly contained 10 million francs (U.S. $2 million) and some foreign currency. The thieves then escaped in the helicopter which, together with the pilot, was abandoned approximately 30 miles from the airport.
Through the early 1990s French counterterrorism policies were not uniformly applied to the challenge of dealing with domestic regionalist or nationalist terrorism. Paris maintained a tough stance with the small French Basque Iparretarrak (IK) separatist movement, as well as with the Breton Revolutionary Alliance (ARB). The French Government took a more conciliatory approach, however, toward the Corsican National Liberation Front (FLNC) and the small Guadeloupe-based Caribbean Revolutionary Alliance (ARC).
The French Government policy toward the Corsican FLNC had been to lure it away from violence and to convince the group to abide by the truce declared with the central government in May 1988. In addition to formulating reforms designed to grant Corsica greater political and economic autonomy, the French Government released approximately 50 suspected FLNC terrorists in French prisons, and later extended the Bastille Day amnesty to include all convicted Corsican terrorists.
The FLNC appears to have used the truce to rebuild its clandestine military apparatus. In November 1993 the group blew up two tourist apartment complexes in Corsica and destroyed a French Ministry of Agriculture building in Ajaccio. No casualties resulted from the attacks.
Although violent Corsican separatism continued, there has been a diminution in the effectiveness and quality of the attacks. This was due to a change in French government policy in the early 1990s. Previously, governments would arrest separatists and then, in the hopes of arriving at a political solution, would grant general amnesties to all separatists in prison every few years. The imprisoned militants would return with great acclaim to Corsica, where they would then recommence their separatist activities. The government changed this policy in the 1990s, and began to treat separatists not as freedom fighters but as criminals and terrorists. When the penalties became 8, 10, 15 years or even life in prison, Corsican militants became less willing to conduct separatist attacks. It helped that those with the most technical mastery of explosives were the ones given the lengthiest prison sentences. By treating Corsican separatism as a criminal justice issue, the French government minimized the "folklore" of Corsican separatism. This, combined with long prison sentences, made the Corsican separatist problem more manageable.
In the early 1990s, two key nationalist movements formed after the Front national de libération de la Corse (FLNC) split due (partly) to difficulties in sharing the extortion racketeering income amongst its members. Each new formation had its own military and legitimate face: the ex-FLNC-Canal Historique with its A Cuncolta Naziunalista and the ex-FLNC-Canal Habituel and its Mouvement pour l’autodétermination (MPA). The ex-FLNC-Canal Historique had also a number of satellite legitimate organisations around it: such as the Trade Union of Corsican Peasants, The Federation of Independent Workers, the Union of Corsican Workers, etc. Nationalist movements also make significant use of companies to provide them with logistical support, and as way to launder criminal profits or raised funds.
In December 1999 and January, the main Corsican separatist groups agreed to a ``cease fire'' in order to allow elected Corsican officials to engage in a dialog with the Government. In July the Government and Corsican officials agreed to a plan that would give more legislative authority to Corsica's elected officials. Although the cease fire was still in effect, after the July agreement there were several bombings in Corsica (with some minor injuries) and one shooting attack in which Jean-Michel Rossi, a writer and former Corsica nationalist militant, and his bodyguard, Jean-Claude Fratacci, were killed. In December a bomb exploded at the police barracks in Corsica; a policeman was injured.
Low-level bombings targeting vacation homes and government offices continue to plague the island. The FLNC splinter groups, often just a handful of uneducated young men, want to show off. Wealthy owners of vacation homes sometimes avoid environmental regulations by paying off local mayors, and the bombers are warning them not to do so. Local conflicts between families are played out and made to seem as if they are separatist-related. Many of those active in separatist movements depend heavily on tourism to the island.
Corsican separatists are increasingly fragmented and transitioning into familial-based clans in which separatist goals were not necessarily the first priority. Clan vendettas and the anti-immigrant targeting of North Africans are vying with traditional separatist aims for prominence. The spate of racially-tinged attacks in 2004 and 2005 were suspected of being related to local business disputes. Corsicans are not racist, and the island contains well-regarded Portuguese and North African communities. But Corsicans aere "jealous people" and might not look kindly upon perceived successes within the immigrant community.
On 18 June 2003, in Yvelines, France, militants from the Corsican National Liberation Front (FLNC) detonated explosive charges during the early morning hours, seriously damaging two French villas and a British housing company, according to press reports. The houses were unoccupied, and nobody was injured in the attack. In 2004, the Ministry of Interior reported that 154 people were arrested in connection with the steady number of low-level explosions that have occurred on the island of Corsica since the 1950s. In general, the explosions target symbols of French government authority, but they do not harm or kill anyone. One notable exception was the assassination in 1999 of Claude Erignac, the prefect of Corsica and as such, the highest-ranking French official on the island.
Attacks on the French island of Corsica were up approximately 38 percent in 2006, totaling over 225. A majority of these attacks were claimed by the National Front for the Liberation of Corsica-Combatants Union, or by the National Front for the Liberation of Corsica of October 22. Three terrorists were killed during the year by accident while attempting to carry out attacks. The government had a widespread police presence in the region and arrested dozens of people throughout the year in connection with various attacks. The groups tended to target secondary residences, and avoided serious damage or casualties. Separatist groups appeared to have largely given up their political battle for independence but continued to wage an intimidation campaign aimed at foreigners or mainland French citizens interested in permanent residence or secondary homes on the small island.
Attacks on the French island of Corsica decreased in 2007, totaling 180. The government had a widespread police presence in the region and arrested dozens of people throughout the year in connection with various attacks. No deaths were reported and only a handful of minor injuries resulted from the attacks. The December conviction of Corsican extremist Yvan Colonna (convicted of the 1998 assassination of the highest ranking national government representative in Corsica), however fueled a rise in attacks at the end of 2007.
Current separatists are involved more in criminal acts than ideology. The overwhelming majority of Corsicans do not want any more autonomy from the "continent," despite the fact that France is the most centralized state in Europe. Corsican separatism is ideologically spent, and no longer enjoyed any significant support. Corsican separatism has waned since the 1980s and 1990s. Still, low-level bombings continue on a regular basis. Even though injuries due to these attacks are extremely rare, they nonetheless cement the impression among "continental" French that Corsica is an island rife with separatist tension. Anecdotal evidence reveals that many French believe they will be targeted if they visit Corsica. The periodic bombings aere now part of the culture, a coming of age of sorts for disaffected youth. Corsica is special, a culture that fervently believes in its exceptionalism. Corsica has carved out a niche of its own.
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