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France/Pakistan - 2002 attack

Opposition calls for parliamentary inquiry

Article published on the 2009-06-25 Latest update 2009-06-25 17:03 TU

French submarine built by the Direction des constructions navales (DCN), which became DCNS in 2007.© Marine nationale

French submarine built by the Direction des constructions navales (DCN), which became DCNS in 2007.
© Marine nationale

France's opposition called on Thursday for a parliamentary inquiry into the 2002 killing of 11 French engineers in Pakistan. This follows allegations of a link to a corrupt submarine deal with the authorities in Pakistan.

"Seven years after the events, it is time for our national representatives to look into these serious happenings," Jean-Marc Ayrault wrote in his request to the parliamentary speaker for an inquiry into the attack.

According to a lawyer for the victims' families, the judicial probe under way into the Karachi attack is now focusing on a 1994 sub-contract with French state firm DCN, the engineers' employer.

Anti-terrorism investigators suspect the attack could have been ordered as punishment after Paris stopped paying commissions to Pakistani intermediaries for the contract that was won by French state firm DCN, said lawyer Olivier Morice.

Magali Drouet, daughter of one victim, says the magistrates specifically believe the attack was ordered because payments were not made to Asif Ali Zardari, who is now Pakistan's president but was a minister at the time.

The attack was initially pinned on Al-Qaeda. However, two alleged members of an Al-Qaeda-linked group who had been convicted in Pakistan in 2003 over the Karachi attack, were both were acquitted last month after a court ruled there was insufficient evidence against them.

Scandal is also brewing in France over media reports suggesting the attack could also be tied up with a political finance scam involving kickbacks paid to President Nicolas Sarkozy's one-time mentor, Edouard Balladur.

The attack took place 8 May 2002. A car packed with explosives rammed into a minibus carrying the 11 French engineers for DCN, who were killed along with three Pakistanis.

Details of the commission payments for the sub deal emerged in 2008 as part of an investigation into French arms sales. Legal at the time -- although they have since been banned -- the commissions were set up when Balladur was prime minister.

They stopped after his rival Jacques Chirac was elected president in 1995. Balladur's campaign manager was the young Sarkozy, who also served as budget minister in his government. 

Questioned last week on whether the Karachi attack could have been linked to commissions on the submarine deal, President Sarkozy dismissed the suggestion as "grotesque."

France's newly sworn-in Justice Minister Michele Alliot-Marie, who was defence minister in 2002, said Thursday the French and Pakistani governments were "highly attached to the truth being established."