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Last Updated: Saturday, 5 July, 2003, 14:28 GMT 15:28 UK
France collars most wanted man

By Caroline Wyatt
BBC correspondent, Paris

France's most wanted fugitive, Yvan Colonna, has been arrested and brought to Paris to face trial for the murder of the most senior French official on Corsica, Claude Erignac.

France's most wanted fugitive, Yvan Colonna
Yvan Colonna is escorted by special police officers onto a flight to Paris
His killing in 1998 was the highest profile assassination by Corsican separatists who are fighting for independence from France.

Eight other Corsicans are already on trial in Paris for aiding and abetting the murder.

Yvan Colonna has been France's most-wanted man since February 6th, 1998.

That was the night an assassin walked up behind France's most senior representative on Corsica, Claude Erignac and murdered him with three bullets to the head. The killing happened in front of Erignac's wife.

Today, she and her two children went to the Interior Ministry to find out more about the capture of her husband's alleged assassin.

Yvan Colonna, portrayed by the separatists as a kind of Robin Hood figure had apparently been hiding on Corsica for the past five years.

He was finally discovered in a shepherd's hut in Porto-Pollo and the French Interior Ministry says the next few days will see more revelations about who helped him to escape trial for so long.

Vote swinger?

The arrest of Colonna is a boost to both the police on the island and the French government who have been made a mockery of by his disappearance.

It could also help the government on the eve of Corsica's first referendum on Sunday of whether or not to create a new regional assembly for the island to give it one voice.

The French government wants a yes vote.

Paris believes the reform is the best way to ensure that Corsica stays French, yet Corsican nationalists are also keen on a yes vote seeing the new assembly as the first step towards independence.

So far Corsicans themselves seem evenly divided on the issue.

Opinion polls show both sides running neck and neck.


WATCH AND LISTEN
The BBC's Caroline Wyatt
"The hunt has gone on for several years"



SEE ALSO:
Corsica seeks stake in future
05 Jul 03  |  Europe
The Corsican conundrum
09 Jul 99  |  Europe
Corsica's top official killed
06 Feb 98  |  Europe
Profile: Corsica
28 Jun 03  |  Country profiles


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