Violence targeting property speculators returned to Corsica this week when a wealthy Parisian banker was held hostage at gunpoint while his luxury holiday home was blown apart in front of his eyes.
Armed men wearing balaclavas stormed the villa of retired financier Alain Lefebvre in broad daylight on July 2. He and six other terrified holiday-makers were ordered outside whilst the raiders, believed to be Corsican separatists, planted explosives inside the apartment before detonating them.
Lefebvre and the other occupants were released unharmed shortly after the blasts.
His luxury holiday villa was devastated by the bombing, which marks the latest attack in a long-lasting bombing campaign waged by separatists against property investors from outside Corsica.
Violence will go on
A local journalist who has covered the bombing campaign sees no solution to end the violence.
“Those who are behind the bombings don’t want Corsica to become like Spain’s Costa del Sol. They don’t want the coast to be turned into concrete. Whether that justifies blowing up people’s homes is another question,” the journalist, who asked not to be named, told FRANCE 24.
“Property investors will always be attracted by the beauty of Corsica, so we can expect more attacks. It is not so much those who buy homes in the villages who are targeted but those who want to build properties on the edge of the beach.”
“It’s true that it’s a cause which is supported by a certain number of people on the island but I don’t know whether it’s a majority or not. Most people in Corsica do not condone the violence,” he said.
Located on the secluded southern tip of Corsica, near Bonifaccio, Lefebvre’s villa was part of a holiday complex at the centre of a long-running dispute with environmental groups, who accused him and other speculators of ruining the island’s coastline.
According to local media, Lefebvre recently won permission to build a dozen new holiday homes in the area around the picturesque Balistra beach.
Although no group has officially claimed responsibility for this week’s bombing, the letters FLNC -- the initials of the separatist Corsican National Liberation Front -- were found scrawled on several walls.
The FLNC, which is demanding an independent Corsican state, was behind more than 20 similar attacks on luxury holiday villas carried out across the island on the May 11, referred to as a ‘blue night’.
In fact bombings on the island are frequent, many fail to make the news in the main stream media.
‘Bombings prevent urbanisation’
With speculators’ love for Corsica’s beauty showing no signs of diminishing, they will continue to risk the ire of nationalists, who are not afraid to take planning laws into their own hands.
Many environmentalists on the island refuse to speak out against the violence.
“I cannot condemn the attack,” Vincente Cucchi, president of an environmental group told Europe 1 radio. “For 30 years the bombings have helped prevent Corsica turning into the Cote d’Azur. They have been a break on the mass urbanisation of our coastline.”
The violence may be in the name of environmental protection but it is also fuelled by the long held antipathy of a certain section of the population towards outsiders known as ‘continentals’, especially from the French mainland and Italy.
In the eyes of Corsica’s militant environmentalists and nationalists, Lefebvre and his like have long represented a threat to the island. It is not the first time he himself has been targeted.
After buying 200 hectares of land in 1970 to build holiday home complexes, several of his constructions were blown up in 1990 and 2001, including a campsite in which he was a share holder.
The feelings of resentment towards ‘continentals’ is deepened by the fact that many inhabitants of the island can no longer afford the rocketing property prices.
Gilles Millet, of Corsica magazine, told France 24 that 80 percent of homes in Corsica, which has long been one of France’s poorest regions, are now bought by ‘continentals.’
What angers the nationalists and the environmentalists is that most of the houses are only occupied for a few weeks a year when their owners come to the island on holiday.
Anti-terrorism police from Paris are investigating the ongoing violence.