Driver discovers three shot dead in France’s Corsica

Investigators collect evidence at the scene of the Corsica attacks.

AJACCIO / LYON / CLAYGATE, Britain: Three people were found shot dead Tuesday in a car dumped in a ditch on the French Mediterranean island of Corsica, a source close to the inquiry into their killings said.

The bodies were found in a mountain village near the town of Corte in the north of the island, which has suffered three decades of low-level violence by separatists opposed to French rule.

The victims, who the source said had probably been ambushed, were found by a driver who had spotted the car in the ditch.

The three victims, who are Corsican but whose identities have not been confirmed, were known to the police, the source said.

A dozen men have been shot dead in Corsica since the start of the year. Police say many of them were victims of score-settling in ongoing feuds among organized crime gangs.

Monday, a series of explosions rocked seven supermarkets in Corsica, claiming no victims and causing only minor damage, police said.

The blasts hit supermarkets in the island’s main city Ajaccio and in the Upper Corsica region.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the explosions.

The holiday island, with a population of 306,000, has more supermarkets per head than any other region of France and plans for a new hypermarket in the suburbs of Ajaccio were abandoned last year after many complaints.

In recent years there have been numerous bombings by the Corsican National Liberation Front, but they have mainly targeted holiday homes of people from the mainland.

The latest deaths come less than a week after a British-Iraqi family was gunned down in the French Alps.

The bullet-ridden bodies of three of the four dead were found in a car in an isolated forest road.

French and British police spent a fourth day Tuesday searching the home of the slain family.

A source close to the inquiry said detectives had Tuesday opened a safe at the home of the Hilli family in Claygate, Surrey, a commuter village some 25 kilometers southwest of London.

The contents of the safe were not disclosed. Police were also questioning Zaid al-Hilli – the brother of victim Saad al-Hilli – for a fourth day straight, added the source, who praised the cooperation between British police and the French gendarmes supervising.

A Surrey Police spokesman told AFP: “Specialist search teams are continuing an extensive search of the property. We are continuing to assist the French authorities and are providing any help we can.”

Saad al-Hilli, 50, his 47-year-old wife Iqbal and her 74-year-old mother were found dead in their car in a forest car park near the village of Chevaline, southeast France, last Wednesday.

A passing French cyclist, 45-year-old Sylvain Mollier, was also killed.

The Hillis’ daughter Zainab, aged 7, was seriously wounded and her 4-year-old sister Zeena escaped by hiding under her dead mother’s skirts.

Zeena went undiscovered for some eight hours after the car was first found.

Police have not revealed any of their findings from their search of Hilli’s house.

The search is set to continue until Thursday or Friday.

Saad al-Hilli, who was raised in the United Kingdom after his family left Iraq in the 1970s, worked in the aerospace industry.

Police have been questioning Zaid al-Hilli, who also lives in Surrey, since Saturday following speculation that the killings may have been related to a family row over inheritance.

Detectives have not commented on reports of a dispute between the brothers over the will left by their father, who died in Spain last year.

Four French detectives, led by Colonel Marc de Tarle, the French gendarmerie’s head of criminal affairs, are currently overseeing the investigations in Britain.

A French investigating judge and a prosecutor will also travel to England Thursday as part of the inquiry, a source close to the probe said.

Judge Michel Mollin, who will be accompanied by prosecutor Eric Maillaud, will discuss with British officials the repatriation of the bodies and may also visit the family’s home in Claygate.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on September 12, 2012, on page 10.




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