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Saturday, February 7, 1998 Published at 02:32 GMT

World: Europe

Corsica's top official killed
image: [ FLNC members announcing the cessation of an earlier ceasefire ]
FLNC members announcing the cessation of an earlier ceasefire

The prefect of the French island of Corsica, Claude Erignac, has been shot dead in a crowded street in Ajaccio.

Two gunmen shot Mr Erignac in the back as he and his wife were going to a concert on Friday evening, then were reported to have fled on motorcycles.

Large numbers of police have set up a cordon around the neighbourhood.

The National Assembly in Paris observed a minute's silence in memory of the prefect and Lionel Jospin and Interior Minister Jean-Pierre Chevenement are to travel to Ajaccio on Saturday morning.

[ image: Claude Erignac, the murdered prefect]
Claude Erignac, the murdered prefect
"I am very saddened and revolted," said Jean-Louis Debre, who was interior minister when Erignac was appointed prefect in Corsica in 1996.

"Those who have taken responsibility this evening for killing the prefect have struck a very heavy blow to their interests and to the interest of Corsica", he said.

The BBC's Paris correspondent Hugh Schofield reports (0'-31")
Although no-one has yet claimed responsibility, the Historic Wing of the Corsican National Liberation Front (FLNC) announced the end of a seven-month-old truce on January 26.

[ image: The meditteranean island is home to several separatist groups]
The meditteranean island is home to several separatist groups
There has been violence on the island for 23 years as separatists fight for more automony and more aid from France.

It was not the first time a senior government official has been killed in Corsica.

In 1983, Pierre-Jean Massimi, a high regional official, was shot in the Corsican city of Bastia. The FLNC claimed responsibility.

In recent years, however, FLNC attacks have usually consisted of midnight bombings of deserted government offices, state-owned businesses and tourist homes.

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26 Jan 98 | World
Corsican separatists say truce is over

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