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Corsican nationalists threaten more violence as Valls visits island

French Interior Minister Manuel Valls in the Corsican city of Bastia
French Interior Minister Manuel Valls in the Corsican city of Bastia AFP/Pascal Pochard-Casabianca

A Corsican separatist group has threatened to “take up arms again” as French Interior Minister Manuel Valls stages a two-day visit to the Mediterranean island. The Corsican National Liberation Front (FLNC), which carried out dozens of attacks last year, on Tuesday threatened more violence.

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"We will take up arms again so that France recognises our national rights," an FLNC statement said.

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The French state must recognise the “disastrous effects of its running [of the island] for two and a half centuries” - France bought the island from the Genoese republic in 1764 - or “continue its active role in the destruction of our people”, the statement said.

Before starting his visit, Valls ruled out recognising Corsican as an official language on a par with French, a longstanding nationalist demand.

He also outraged nationalists by declaring that “violence is rooted in the island’s culture”, although he later insisted that he was referring to the organised crime that is widespread there.

Valls on Tuesday declared a "zero tolerance" policy for “mafia” groups, sometimes linked to ex-nationalists, who run protection rackets that especially affect the building industry, property development and infrastructure projects.

Responding to the FNLC’s statement, Valls said he would not be intimidated by threats.

The island, whose population is 310,000, is a popular tourist destination.

There have been 11 murders on the island this year so far, a 40 per cent rise on the toll  at the same time last year, and few of the crimes end in arrests.

Police believe most of the killings were linked to feuds between rival criminal gangs with ties to sections of the nationalist movement.

Being a mayor in Corsica is more difficult than elsewhere, Valls admitted Tuesday, revealing that 15 local politicians have been given secret police protection.

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