Ouvéa cave hostage taking
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The Ouvéa cave hostage taking was an event that occurred from 22 April 1988 to 5 May 1988 in which members of the separatist group, the National Union for Independence-Kanak and Socialist National Liberation Front took 27 people including a French gendarme and a judge hostage in the island of Ouvéa, New Caledonia demanding instant independence of New Caledonia from France.
The French government refused to negotiate and give in to the groups demands and sent a joint hostage recovery team that consisted of:
- 12 Groupe d'Intervention de la Gendarmerie Nationale (GIGN)
- 15 Commando Hubert
- 30 11e régiment parachutiste de choc (covert unit part of the Directorate-General for External Security)
- 3 Escadron Parachutiste d'Intervention de la Gendarmerie Nationale (EPIGN)
The assault "Operation Victor" was initiated on 4 May at around 10 PM. Around seventy-four operators moved into the forest towards the hostage location. The rebels numbered around 30, and were well armed.
The Commando Hubert operators were tasked to neutralise the AA52 7.5mm medium machine gun which was located at the entrance to the cave and would pin down any approaching force and increase the risk of the hostages being harmed. The 11e choc were to neutralise the other Kanak positions located to the south. A joint GIGN and Commando Hubert team would approach the entrance to the cave where the hostage were located. The attack started at 6:15 AM and the assault teams realised they were in a different position than they should have been. A Puma helicopter that was supposed to provide a noise distraction was three minutes late and 300 metres off target. As a result the separatists were pre-warned of the assault and had time to pull back inside the caves. Some Kanak sentries spotted the approaching assault team who had moved further north than they should have and opened fire, wounding a Commando Hubert operator. Another operator shot and killed the sentry that had fired. Another assault force member was killed as they crossed the open ground in front of the cave. The Commando Hubert team cleared a 50 metre area in front of the machine gun position with flamethrowers.
The hostages managed to escape in the confusion, and the Kanak group surrendered but by the end of the assault, nineteen hostage-takers and two members of the military were killed. According to a later report: "Some acts of barbarity have been committed by the French military in contradiction with their military duty". In several autopsies, it appeared that most of the Kanak activists had been executed and the leader of the hostage-takers, Alphonse Dianou, who was severely injured by a gunshot in the leg, had been left without medical care, and died a couple hours later.
- List of hostage crises
- Bernard Pons, French Minister for Overseas Territories at the time, who dealt with the matter.
- Jean Guiart, A drama of ambiguity: Ouvea 1988-89, Journal of Pacific History, June 1997
- Philippe Legorjus, La Morale et l'action, Paris, 1990
- Cédric Michalski, L'Assaut de la grotte d'Ouvéa : Analyse juridique, Paris, 2004 (ISBN 2-7475-6467-3)
- Michel Bernard, GIGN, le temps d'un secret, Bibliophane-Daniel Radford, Paris, 2003
- Antonio Raluy, La Nouvelle-Calédonie. Paris, 1990 (ISBN 2-8653-7259-6)
- Alain Rollat et Edwy Plenel. Mourir à Ouvéa, Le tournant calédonien, Paris, 1988
- A drama of ambiguity: Ouvea 1988-89, Journal of Pacific History, June, 1997[dead link]
- Pacific Magazine: New Caledonia Marks 20th Anniversary Of Ouvea Tragedy[dead link]