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 independence movement, the National Union for Independence-Kanak and Socialist National Liberation Front took 27 gendarmes, a public prosecutor and seven members of the French GIGN military unit hostage on the island of Ouvéa, New Caledonia. They demanded talks with the French government about independence for New Caledonia from France.
The French government said it refused to negotiate with "terrorists" or agree to the group's demands. It 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)
19 of the hostage-takers and two members of the hostage recovery team were killed in the assault. There were allegations that many of the hostage-takers were summarily executed after being captured.
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 Kanak independentists numbered around 30 and were 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 hostages 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 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 of Captain Philippe Legorjus, then GIGN leader: "Some acts of barbarity have been committed by the French military in contradiction with their military duty". In several autopsies, it appeared that 12 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 some hours later. . Prior of this report, Captain Philippe Legorjus was accused by many of the GIGN agents who took part in the operation of weaknesses in command and to have had "dangerous absences" (some even said he fled) in the final stages of the case. He was forced to resign from the GIGN after this operation, since nobody wanted him as chief and to fight under him anymore.
The military authorities have always denied the version of events given by Captain Philippe Legorjus. Following a command investigation, Jean-Pierre Chevènement, Minister of Defense of the Michel Rocard government, notes that "no part of the investigation revealed that there had been summary executions". In addition, according to some participants of the operation interviewed by Le Figaro, no shots were heard on area after the fighting ended.
- 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]