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Europe

Corsica sets sights on tackling high murder rate

Famed for its beaches and countryside, Corsica has long been a top destination for tourists from across Europe. But with the highest murder rate in France, it seems there is trouble in paradise and officials want action.

A knife attack in silhouette

Blood feuds and vendettas are all too common on the island

The French Mediterranean island of Corsica may be noted for its mountains, beaches and sunshine, but it is also remarkable for something less attractive to tourists.

The island, known as the Island of Beauty, has the France’s highest murder rate.

Members of the Corsican Territorial Assembly, the island's parliament, debated the issue - which some have called the Corsican sickness - for the first time this week.

Although it has a population of just over a quarter of a million people, an extraordinarily high number of murders are committed on Corsica.

Bonifacio in Corsica

Although Corsica is a popular tourist destination, it has a dark side

In 2009, 28 murders and 17 attempted murders were reported. Although the figures are somewhat better this year - only 16 murders and 14 attempted murders - the weaponry used is getting more dangerous all the time.

Appeal for a long-term strategy

"When you see the number of murders, the killings on public squares, killings in front of children, the murders, the terrorist attacks, the violence against women, it would be shameful if the territorial assembly didn't try to tackle the problem - along with the national authorities - with a long-term strategy," the head of the territorial assembly Dominique Bucchini said.

Corsica, the birthplace of Napoleon Bonaparte, has long been notorious for its blood feuds and vendettas where large families - clans - are honor-bound to take revenge for acts committed against them.

A background of violence

It is also a country where, since the mid-1970s, extremist nationalist groups including the National Liberation Front of Corsica have been fighting a guerrilla war against the representatives of the French state with the aim of achieving independence. Overlapping with armed Corsican nationalism there is armed Corsican organized crime - even in the relatively peaceful mountain university town of Corte.

A gun being aimed

Guns are a growing problem, with ownership widespread

"I've seen too many guns, too many," one Corte student told Deutsche Welle. "Not all the time. Not every time I go out. But I have friends who own guns and that's unacceptable because, even if they're good people, all it takes is someone to drink a glass too many and things can get out of hand."

In one recent murder, on December 5, a 30-year-old man called Florian Costa was killed in his car after being shot several times. A baby and a four-year-old girl who were in the back of the car were lucky to escape with their lives.

Corsican Youth Association president Jean-Pascal Taddei agrees it is time the island did something about what he says is its fascination with violence.

"For me it's inexplicable that Corsica should have this firearms cult," said Taddei. "Above all for young people. No young person should feel the need for a gun in order to have fun or to feel safe."

Author: John Laurenson, Paris (rc)
Editor: Rob Turner

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