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 an independence movement, the Kanak and Socialist National Liberation Front, assassinated four gendarmes and took 27 hostages, together with a public prosecutor and seven members of the French GIGN military unit, 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:

Nineteen 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 22:00. Around seventy-four operators moved into the forest towards the hostage location. The Kanak independentists numbered around 30 and were armed.

The hostages had been located in Gossannah cave, a series of caves on Ouvéa Island. The assault team moved into their final assault positions roughly 300 metres parallel from the cave entrance.

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 06:15 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 he 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 post-mortems, 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.[1] Prior to 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 Defence of the Michel Rocard government, noted 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.

Rebellion film[edit]

The 2011 docudrama film Rebellion was based on the Ouvéa cave hostage crisis, as told from the point of view of the lead hostage negotiator.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Grotte d'Ouvéa, 1988, la plaie est toujours ouverte | L'Humanité" (in French). Humanite.fr. Retrieved 2017-07-22.
  • 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

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 20°39′08″S 166°33′43″E / 20.6522°S 166.5619°E / -20.6522; 166.5619