Killings on restive Corsica raise French fears

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Associated Press

Posted on November 15, 2012 at 6:30 AM

Updated Thursday, Nov 15 at 8:35 AM

PARIS (AP) — France pledged Thursday to restore order in Corsica, a day after a prominent shopkeeper was killed on a busy street on the Mediterranean island long troubled by violent separatists and organized crime.

The death of Jacques Nacer, who was also chief of Corsica's chamber of commerce, was the second high-profile killing on the island in a month. In October, a prominent defense lawyer was shot to death as he stopped for gas en route to work.

Interior Minister Manuel Valls said an average of 33 people are killed each year among the 300,000 people in Corsica — or about 20 percent of France's gangland murders on a tiny territory that holds less than a percent of the country's total population.

The island is a popular tourist destination famed for its beaches and mountains, but Valls said a culture of fear had taken root as the violence becomes more pronounced.

"In Corsica, people know but they do not say," he said.

Located more than 200 kilometers (125 miles) off the coast of France with an insular culture that includes an obscure dialect closely linked to Italian, Corsica has always been isolated. Ajaccio, the island capital where both the lawyer and shopkeeper were killed, is best known as the birthplace of Napoleon Bonaparte.

But Valls insisted the island would not be abandoned to criminals and declared that French law would prevail.

"Corsica is France," he said. "It is not a territory apart."

Christiane Taubira, France's justice minister, acknowledged that only 4 of the 60 most recent killings on the island had ended in convictions and promised that the government would do better.

"A minority of murderers, assassins, crooks and mafiosi do not control the territory," she said. "It's the large majority of Corsicans who control the territory, and they will have the last word."

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