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Two Questioned in French Slaying

February 7, 1998

AJACCIO, Corsica (AP) _ Police questioned two suspects today in the slaying of the top French official on the Mediterranean island of Corsica, sources close to the investigation said.

Claude Erignac, France’s regional administrator for Corsica, was shot Friday night by two gunmen wielding 9-mm pistols. The assailants fled on motorcycles.

No one claimed responsibility, but militants seeking greater autonomy for Corsica have been involved in violence for 23 years and an anti-terrorism squad in Paris was placed in charge of the investigation.

Erignac, 60, had just parked his car and was walking to a classical music concert through a crowded street when he was shot in the head four times, police said.

A pistol used in the attack was found by Erignac’s corpse and was being examined today. Judicial sources, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the pistol may have been stolen during a September raid on a police station in southern Corsica.

Prime Minister Lionel Jospin went to Corsica to meet with police in Ajaccio about the killing. He called the ``attack of cowardice.″

``The culprits and eventually the sponsors of this act will be found, handed over to the courts and punished,″ Jospin told reporters after meeting with police in Ajaccio.

President Jacques Chirac, speaking in Paris, called it ``a barbaric act without precedent in our history (in Corsica).″

Erignac was appointed to his post two years ago. He often went out without his bodyguard.

Corsican militants are fighting for both greater autonomy and aid from the government in Paris.

The Corsican National Liberation Front-Historic Wing, the most radical militant faction, announced Jan. 26 an end to a 7-month-old truce, saying France’s socialist-led government, which took power last June, had failed to meet its demands.

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