National Liberation Front of Corsica
The National Liberation Front of Corsica (Corsican: Fronte di Liberazione Naziunale Corsu, or FLNC) is a militant group that advocates an independent state on the island of Corsica, separate from France. They also wanted all currently imprisoned members of the FLNC in France to be put into Corsican prisons. The organisation's presence was primarily in Corsica and less so on the French mainland. Conculta Naziunalista is often considered to be the political wing of the organisation.
Typical militant acts by the FLNC were bombings, aggravated assault, armed bank robbery and extortion through "revolutionary taxes", and are mostly aimed at public buildings, banks, tourist infrastructure, military buildings and other symbols of French control. Usually the attacks were against buildings and infrastructure and not against people. The overwhelming majority of their attacks on the French mainland took place in or around the cities of Nice, Marseille and Avignon.
The FLNC was created from a merger of Ghjustizia Paolina and the Fronte Paesanu Corsu di Liberazione, the two largest Corsican armed organizations. It is an offshoot of the political party A Cuncolta Independentista which has members in the Corsican Assembly and some support with the Corsican people.
The FLNC carried out its first attacks on the night of 4 May 1976 with 21 bombs exploding in Ajaccio, Bastia, Sartène, Porto-Vecchio and other towns. The majority of the targets were public buildings and the offices of estate agents. On 5 May the FLNC formally announced its existence when it issued a bilingual manifesto which also claimed responsibility for the previous night's attacks.
The manifesto contained six demands:
- The recognition of the National Right of the Corsican people.
- The removal of all instruments of French colonialism – including the French Army and the colonists.
- The setting up of a popular democratic government which would express the will and the needs of the Corsican people.
- The confiscation of colonial estates.
- Agrarian reform to fulfill the aspirations of farmers, workers and intellectuals and rid the country of all forms of exploitation.
- The right to self-determination of the Corsican people.
1970s – "Drawing Attention to Corsica"
Following its opening salvo on 4 May, the FLNC launched another heavy series of bomb attacks across the island on 20 May. The series of attacks and the emergence of the FLNC coincided with the trial of ten members of the recently outlawed Action Régionaliste Corse. The prosecutors claimed that the men had been involved in the shooting dead of two French police officers that summer. During the summer the FLNC became more active, and on the night of 17 July it carried out a fresh wave of attacks which included a rocket and mortar attack on the gendarmerie in Aghione which employed the use of an American M79 grenade launcher. This increased speculation that the FLNC were being supplied by Libya, who were at the time supplying other revolutionary groups in Europe, including the Provisional IRA. By September 1976 the FLNC were attempting assassinations of high-ranking French military officials. In separate incidents in the town of Corte, a general narrowly missed assassination when his car was riddled with bullets; his driver lost an ear in the attack. Meanwhile, the home of another senior officer in the town was targeted in a bomb attack. On 7 September, seven masked militiamen hijacked and bombed a Boeing 707 parked at Ajaccio's airport.
The beginning of 1977 saw little FLNC activity. In April there were a number of attacks on premises associated with Corsican nationalists and the FLNC. The attacks were claimed by a new group calling itself FRANCIA (Front d'Action Nouvelle Contre l'Indépendance et l'Autonomie). Although other anti-autonomist groups existed in Corsica, FRANCIA appeared to be the only group capable of carrying out attacks. On 14 May this group destroyed the printing presses of Arritti (a Corsican nationalist publication) in a bomb attack. The FLNC responded to the attacks on 24 May by carrying out a daring raid on the French army outpost at Fort-Lacroix, near Bastia, where eight armed militants blew up wireless facilities after subduing the sentries. At the beginning of June they destroyed a large section of Bastia railway station in a bomb attack; a month later the FLNC launched an overnight bomb offensive hitting 27 pro-French targets followed by the bombing of the television relay station at Serra di Pigno. On the night of 13 January 1978, nine armed militiamen wearing balaclavas stormed and bombed the NATO radar station at Solenzara.
The FLNC suffered a serious setback in May 1978 when 27 suspected members were arrested both in Corsica and France. The police stumbled upon an FLNC weapons-dump in the town of Cardo during an investigation into an ordinary burglary. While at the scene the police noticed men nearby moving what looked like weapons. The incident resulted in over 300 people being questioned and over 60 detained by the authorities. Other suspects were picked up in Paris, Nice and Lyons. In December 1978 the FLNC increased its attacks on police barracks – in one incident the gendarmerie at Borgo was raked with heavy machine gun fire – resulting in a fear that the FLNC would now begin to concentrate its attacks on people as well as material targets. At this time the FLNC also began to demand that their prisoners be treated as political prisoners.
1980s – "A New Offensive"
In 1979 the number of FLNC attacks increased; in a two-month period from January to the beginning of March there were over 115 bomb attacks on the island. However, in July a number of their activists were captured and sentenced to long prison terms resulting in a lack of action or activity on the part of the FLNC. The Front announced it would now launch a "new offensive in the liberation struggle" and advised Corsicans who were members of the police or Army to leave the island. On 10 March, ten banks across Corsica were car-bombed by the FLNC. Then on 10 April three banks in Paris were also damaged in explosions, and later the Paris Law Courts were devastated by a time-bomb which cost over 3 million francs worth of damage. The late 1970s and early 1980s marked a decisive change of FLNC policy, similar to the one employed by the IRA. The FLNC now decided to "Bring the Corsican problem to the French" by carrying out bomb attacks on the French mainland. On 6 May 1979 the FLNC managed to bomb 20 banks in Paris and on 30 May more banks were damaged by explosions. The beginning of June saw the FLNC switch back to activities on the island itself with twenty-five major explosions coupled with a carbomb attack on the Police Headquarters in Paris. On 14 May 1980 the FLNC bombed the Law Courts in Paris and also carried out a machine-gun attack on four gendarmes who were guarding the Iranian embassy, wounding three.
The 1980s also saw FLNC supporters becoming more visible in terms of protests and political activity. The FLNC continued to call for their prisoners to be given political status. Mass demonstrations in support of political status for Corsican prisoners were common and FLNC supporters were active in all protests which could be classified as "Corsican V French". In November 1980, 12 FLNC prisoners in Paris went on hunger-strike in a protest against the inequality of treatment for Corsican nationalist prisoners. This protest overlapped with that of six IRA hungerstrikers in Northern Ireland. The Corsican prisoners were force-fed for a number of weeks before they ended their strike. On 1 April 1981 the FLNC called a ceasefire for the duration of the Presidential Elections and following the victory of François Mitterrand, announced they would extend the ceasefire to "see how things develop".
On 18 September the FLNC announced the end of its ceasefire at a press conference held in the mountains of central Corsica. They condemned the autonomists for attempting to use the "usual useless channels" of the political system and opposed French "appeasement policies" before stating that the armed struggle would resume and that the FLNC would not lay down its arms.
On 19 August 1982 the FLNC launched its most spectacular night of violence with the so-called "violente nuit bleue", during which 99 attacks were carried out against government targets.
In the mid-1980s the organisation also stepped up its attacks against suspected drug dealers, killing four in the space of twelve months in 1986.
In 1988 a truce was agreed between the French government and the FLNC. However, the ceasefire did not sit well with certain members of the organisation, resulting in a split within the movement.
1990s - Internal feuds and the assassination of Claude Érignac
The 1990s saw the FLNC organisation tear itself apart through a series of deadly internal feuds. Much of the reason for the splits and feuds was the political rivalries of the members within the organisation as well as personal disputes.
1991 saw one of the first shootouts between the FLNC and military gendarmes when an FLNC commando managed to shoot its way out of an ambush and escape. 1991 also saw the FLNC carry out an attack against a refinery on the neighbouring island of Sardinia.
In December 1996 the FLNC began a Christmas offensive across Corsica. In Figari the FLNC launched a machine-gun attack on a military barracks while in Zicavo a grenade attack was carried out on the Police Station. In 1997 the FLNC Canal-Habituel faction called a ceasefire which resulted in the Canal Historique faction attempting to take control of the organisation and launch a fresh offensive. In 1998 FLNC attacks soared with policemen and mayors among the dead. The offensive culminated in the assassination of Claude Érignac in Ajaccio. Érignac was the French Prefect for Corsica and the top representative of the French Republic on the island. The attack was highly publicized and criticized so strongly that the FLNC were forced to deny that they were responsible. Since 1999, splits, internal feuding, ceasefires and breaches of ceasefires have characterized the FLNC.
2000s – "Reunification of the Internal Factions"
The FLNC has continued its attacks into the 2000s, although at a much reduced tempo when compared with the late 1970s. Many FLNC bombs failed to detonate or attacks had to be aborted. Nevertheless, the FLNC did manage to carry out a number of successful attacks including the 2002 bombing of a military barracks in Lumio which injured a number of gendarmes, bomb attacks against a number of hotels in Marseille in 2004 and rocket attacks against a number of barracks in 2007.
In 2009 it carried out a car bomb attack against a gendarmerie barracks in Vescovato. The FLNC also claimed that all the different factions had reunified. During the early 2000s the FLNC had been divided into the FLNC-UC, the FLNC-1976, and the FLNC-22 October.
The FLNC has continued its attacks against the properties of French mainlanders living on Corsica. At the end of 2011 the group released a statement in which it claimed responsibility for 38 bomb attacks in the preceding 4 months. In the statement the armed group said they "would remain attentive and never let pass an opportunity for peace."
2010s: Cessation of hostilities
In June 2014, the FLNC-UC announced the cessation of the armed struggle stating that the Front has "decided to engage unilaterally in a process of demilitarisation and a progressive exit from clandestinity." On 3 May 2016, the FLNC-22 announced in a statement that they will "end military operations" by October 2016, following the lead of the FLNC-UC, in order to allow the island’s new assembly, led by nationalists to fulfil its mandate calmly. The armed group, however, refused to lay down its weapons. In July 2016, the FLNC-22 warned of a "determined response, without any qualms" for any jihadist attack in Corsica.
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