Police seek Frenchman in Rainbow Warrior bombing
AUCKLAND, New Zealand (AP) _ Police said Friday they are looking for a Frenchman seen hanging around the Greenpeace ship Rainbow Warrior before a bomb sank it, and have asked Interpol to help track him.
The double explosion Wednesday night blew a 6-by-8-foot hole in the ship’s hull and killed a photographer working with the environmental organization.
New Zealand police said they think the missing Frenchman may be in Tahiti, a French South Pacific territory, and they had asked authorities there for permission to talk to him. They would not reveal his name.
Police said earlier that members of the Rainbow Warrior’s crew told them they saw the Frenchman near the vessel shortly before it was sunk at its berth in Auckland Harbor.
″As a result of our investigations we believe he has left the country by air. Naturally, we want to find him,″ said Detective Superintendent Allan Galbraith, and the international police agency Interpol had been asked to help.
Galbraith would not say whether the man was from the French container vessel Helene Delmas, which was berthed near the Rainbow Warrior. The French ship sailed Thursday morning and was due to arrive Saturday at Lyttleton, near Christchurch on New Zealand’s South Island.
″We want to speak to everybody who was on board the Rainbow Warrior that night,″ Galbraith said.
The 30-year-old converted Scottish trawler lies on its side partially submerged. Its hull is embedded in the mud, but parts of a white dove and a rainbow painted on it are visible above the waterline.
The Rainbow Warrior arrived Sunday from the Pacific nation of Vanuatu, formerly the New Hebrides. It was to lead a protest flotilla next month to the French nuclear testing site at Mururoa Atoll in French Polynesia, about midway between Chile and New Zealand in the Pacific.
New Zealand and other Pacific nations that are seeking to turn the region into a nuclear-free zone have criticized France’s decade-long nuclear testing program at Mururoa.
The French Embassy in Wellington issued a statement 24 hours after the bombing that said it was ″in no way involved.″ The deputy head of mission Charles-Henri Montin condemned the bombing and expressed sympathy for the crew.
Prime Minister David Lange said the bombing had ″the implication of political or terrorist overtones.″
The Greenpeace offices in Sydney, Australia, said they turned down offers of 24-hour police protection.
″The police are willing to patrol around here on a 24-hour basis, but we feel it isn’t necessary,″ spokeswoman Melanie Shanahan said. ″We don’t think the whole world is out to get us. We haven’t received any threats.″
Navy divers said a charge of as much as 44 pounds of explosives, activated by timers, probably sink the 160-foot vessel, which the international environmental group used in its protests against nuclear testing and waste dumping and the killing of seals, dolphins and whales.
Lt. Mike Ramsay, chief of the diving team, said the explosion probably was not caused by limpet mines stuck onto the ship’s side.
″Limpet mines, because they must be carried by swimmers, are normally about 5 kilos (11 pounds) and, judging by the size of this explosion, it was caused by something much bigger than that,″ he said.
Ramsey said the timers could have been set weeks or months in advance, but doubted that such a large quantity of explosives could have escaped detection on a long sea voyage.
Police said the wreck could be salvaged, but it would be costly.