The death of the monks of Tibhirine: facts, questions, and hypotheses

 

by: Armand VEILLEUX

 

 

 

 

            On March 27, 1996, seven monks of the monastery of Tibhirine were abducted. Their kidnappers announced their death nearly two months later. Their abduction, their captivity, and their death struck the public, particularly in France but also in Algeria and almost everywhere in the world. What they had lived in Algeria during the previous years, in the midst of the Algerian people, was suddenly revealed.

           

The monks of Tibhirine are true witnesses (martyrs) of the faith by all that they lived, and one will never be done with pondering on the meaning of their message and its importance for the Church, for monastic orders, for the world and for interreligious dialogue.

 

            Some will say that the spiritual reading of their message is all that matters, and that there is no interest in analyzing the specific conditions of their abduction, of their captivity, and of their execution. I believe, on the contrary, that such an analysis is required – and it is required for the Church and the Cistercian Order, as well as for the society. Respect for historical truth (a particular expression of the respect for Truth) requires it. Several other missionaries were killed in Algeria before them, and no explanation of their death has ever been provided, no one guilty for these crimes has ever been arrested, judged, and punished. About two hundred thousand Algerians died in the same infernal cycle of violence. If it is possible to get to the bottom of a particular situation, it is a duty for everyone to do it.

 

            There is still another reason, related to the dialogue between Christianity and Islam, to which our brothers had committed themselves perhaps more than anyone else. If we assert that they were killed by Islamic fundamentalists because of hatred of the Christian faith, it is extremely important not to neglect any effort to analyze to what extent this assertion is true or false. This investigation becomes even more important in these days when strong oil-smelling political interests try everything in the West to demonize the Arab world.

 

Having personally followed quite closely the tragedy of our brothers, I have done my best, since the day of their abduction until now, to collect all possible information and to analyze it carefully. I have done so with the assistance of professionals accustomed to this kind of analysis and crosschecking, in order to make the clear distinction between indubitable objective facts and hypotheses, and to evaluate the just degree of probability, and the strength and weakness of all those hypotheses -- those offered by the official authorities as well as those ventured by other sources.

 

The facts known with absolute certainty are very few (is this not the normal situation in history, in which absolute certainty is rare, and one must usually be satisfied with a moral certainty founded on a great number of clues having a strong probability?). Besides, during the last six years, much new data was provided either by witnesses presented to the press by the Algerian authorities, or by former officers of the Algerian secret service who defected. Of course the assertions of the latter were always followed by refutations from the official authorities and their agents – a refutation accompanied by a denigration of these officers almost always expressed in the same terms.

 

            What I intend to do in this article is precisely to make a clear distinction between the facts about which there cannot be any doubt regarding the various explanations which were given about them, by any source, and the hypotheses which were built up. I will add some information which I personally collected at the time of the events of March and April 1996. I will also add a certain amount of information allowing the reader to have a personal idea of the value of the explanations and hypotheses which were offered up to now.

 

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1) The facts

 

            Around 1:15 AM, March 27, 1996, about twenty armed men arrived at the monastery of Tibhirine. They came to take with them "the seven monks" who were there. The operation was quick, and they set out again about thirty minutes later with seven monks. They did not realize that there were two other monks, Father Amédée and Father Jean-Pierre, as well as a group of retreatants in the guesthouse. Father Amédée and Father Jean-Pierre quickly realized that their brothers had been abducted. They tried to call their neighbors and the police station, but the telephone line had been cut. In fact the main cable had been cut approximately three kilometers away. As the curfew did not allow them to walk on the road in the dark, they waited until the morning to go to the police station.

 

            First of all, they went to the nearest military station and asked to speak to the officer. He was still sleeping (it was 7:00 AM), and the soldier on guard said that he did not have the authority to wake him up. They thus went to the police station in Medea, where they arrived at 7:15. The Police commandant listened to their account without surprise or emotion. As he had to leave for a military operation, he entrusted them to an assistant who took down their statement. It lasted from 9:00 to 11:00. If any search was ever carried out, it had not yet begun at this time. No one saw any troops during the day and no neighbor was interrogated.

 

            The archbishop was informed, then the French embassy. A crisis unit was organized. During an entire month, i.e. until the publication of the first Communiqué of the GIA, the official answer was that "we don’t have any new information, but we are on the right track" (as if there were not a certain contradiction between these two phrases).

 

            On April 26, a Communiqué of the GIA, with the number 43 and signed by Djamel Zitouni, was published in the newspaper El Hayat in London. It was dated April 18, and a few issues of it had been published in Medea and Tibhirine on the same day. It may have been given to President Chirac on April 25, the day before its publication in El Hayat.

 

            A few days later, on April 30, an emissary named Abdullah came to the French embassy in Algiers, to give a tape on which one can hear the voice of all the brothers. This tape was recorded on April 20 (a program on Radio Medi I of Morocco, heard in the background, makes it possible to establish with certainty - although a highly sophisticated technological manipulation must not be completely excluded). One thus knows with some certainty that the monks were alive until that day (April 20).

            According to the explanations given by the French embassy to John W. Kiser (The Monks of Tibhirine. Faith, Love, and Terror in Algeria, New York, 2002, pp. 228-232), Abdullah did not only give a tape. He spoke for approximately an hour and a half with the officers of the embassy. According to him, the tape had been given to Zitouni by a rival clan which was responsible for the abduction! Abdullah, in the name of Zitouni, requested the French government to help him free the monks. The name of Jean-Charles Marchiani was proposed, which is somewhat surprising, since Jean-Charles Marchiani worked with Charles Pasqua and Philippe Rondot for the DST (in charge of the safety of the territory) and not for the DGSE (the central management of the Services abroad), which should normally have been responsible for this case. But it is well known that the relations between the French Secret Service and the Algerian Sécurité Militaire (DRS) are excellent.

 

            After a few more weeks without any new information, another message of the GIA with the number 44, asserted that the monks had been put to death on May 21. Their heads were officially discovered on May 31. The funerals took place on June 2, and they were buried at Tibhirine on June 4.

 

            These are the main facts, which are well-known. To tell them in detail would have taken hundreds of pages.

 

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2) Some personal memories

 

            I had visited the community of Fès in November 1995 and the one of Tibhirine in January 1996, therefore two months before the tragedy. I thus had a certain knowledge of the situation in which the monks lived. When the news of their abduction was sent to the Generalate of the Order in Rome, by the Secretariat of State at the Vatican, on May 27 AM, I was the one who received this sad news, since the Abbot General was not in Rome. I went to Algiers the following days and remained there for two weeks.

 

            During these two weeks, I stayed at the Glycines, with Father Amédée and Father Jean-Pierre, the two survivors of the abduction. I was able to speak about the situation with several religious and Algerian men. I was invited to a few suppers at the embassy, but did not receive any other information than the inevitable: "we do not have any new information". At the end of these two weeks, before going back to Rome, I insisted on seeing the French Ambassador, Mr Lévesque. He received me in the presence of his military assistant, who carefully took notes of what I said. I was with Father Georger, now the bishop of Oran.

 

            The Ambassador began by telling me that he did not have any information. But after my insistent and repeated questions, he finally told me quite a few things, which can help to clarify the information recently published by other sources. Probably a bit irritated by my desire to know, he told me this: (I think I can remember his words quite well): "France had required its citizens to leave the country. Your monks, as other missionaries, remained there, for reasons that we understand and appreciate. But when an unhappy event occurs, as the one which has just happened, it implies some requirements that we are not responsible for." I pretended that I had not understood the clear invitation "to mind my own business" and continued asking questions.

 

The ambassador told me that he was expecting to receive soon a letter from the person responsible for the abduction. Indeed, he said, the men who took the monks hostage wanted to ask for something. The surest way to do it is by mail, as a letter can be mailed at any post office. The convoy of the monks and their kidnappers, he said, was progressing slowly in the mountain (they knew this, according to him, thanks to planes flying at high altitude but able to detect on the ground, even by night, the presence and movements of human beings). The kidnappers, he added, worked for someone who had sent them to achieve this mission. When they have delivered the "goods" to the agent, they would know what this one wants.

 

He also told me that a French General had contacted the Algerian authorities. He was General Rondot. Mgr Tessier told me later than he had been astonished about the way "this General" seemed to have the certainty than he could immediately contact the kidnappers and that everything would be settled quickly.

 

The ambassador also told me that France had declared to the Algerian authorities that they considered the life of the prisoners as a priority, and that they were to avoid military operations endangering their lives.

 

The day when the first message of the GIA was published, April 26, I met another ambassador, the French ambassador in Italy, Mr Malarmé. The message of the GIA had been given to President Chirac the day before, and that morning it was making the front page of all the newspapers. Yet our meeting can be summed up, almost exactly, in the following rapid dialogue. It looks surrealist. Without any other introduction, the ambassador asked:

 

-         Father, you just come back from Algeria, what information do you have?

-         I do not come back from Algeria. I went there, but I came back a few weeks ago. Besides, the situation is new now.

-         Is it?

-         Well, there is the message of the GIA, of course!

-         What message?

I handed to him the text of the Message. I had a copy of the Arab text and the Italian translation in my pocket. He seemed to read it, then gave it back to me saying:

-         And now what do you intend to do?

-         Well, that is exactly the question I have come to ask you!

-         What do you mean?

-         Undoubtedly, there will be some negotiations during the next days. In the name of the religious family and of the families of the monks, I would like to ask you to inform us about anything new.

-         Father, if there are secret negotiations, they will be secret by definition.

-         Yes, but in such situations the families of the hostages are usually informed.

-         I will speak about it to my Superiors...

 

I had just returned to the Generalate when I received a phone call from Mgr. Tessier. The French ambassador in Algiers had complained to him that I had gone "to grumble" at the French embassy in Rome... Obviously they did not want us to approach the file, even just a little.

 

            Some time later (undoubtedly after the visit of Abdullah to the embassy in Algiers), one evening I received a phone call from the Substitute at the Secretariat of State, Mgr. Re. He asked me if I could speak Arabic. I answered that I had some rudimentary knowledge, but that I could not converse in this language. I went to see him the next morning, and he told me that "the French" had declared to the Vatican that they would not negotiate with the kidnappers, and that the Vatican was free to do so if they wanted to. They were looking for an intermediary to go and negotiate.

 

 

3) Questions

 

            Those who believe that it is useless and futile to try to get to the bottom of the circumstances of the abduction and death of the monks of Tibhirine, assert that everything is said in the first Communiqué of the GIA, which is signed by the emir of the GIA and says that the monks have really been abducted because they were Christian, in spite of the promise that Sayya Atiyah had made to them (during Christmas Night in 1993) to leave them in peace. One could stop there, if there were not many questions about Djamel Zitouni’s personality, and about the authenticity or at least the nature of the messages of the GIA bearing his signature.

 

a) Djamel Zitouni :

 

The two messages concerning the monks of Tibhirine were signed by Emir Abou Abderrahmane Amine, aka Djamel Zitouni. As soon as he became the head of the GIA, many questions were raised in many places about him. How is it that a chicken salesman, without any instruction and previous experience of guerrilla life was suddenly at the head of all the Islamic fundamentalist groups? Many testimonies in agreement, coming from the Islamic groups themselves, which were numerous to refuse his authority, or from former members of the Military Security, assert that Zitouni was used by the Military Security to infiltrate the GIA. The thing in itself would not be surprising, since for security services fighting against "terrorist" groups, the most elementary way is to strive to infiltrate them. The independent and agreeing clues, pointing that Zitouni was at least used by the Military Security, if he was not actually a secret agent recruited by them, are so many, that one can consider the thing at least as highly probable. If one applies the usual standards used in history, one could undoubtedly speak about moral certainty. Jean-Baptist Rivoire, in a recent program on Cannal + ("90 minutes", broadcast on November 7, 2002), the fruit of a few years of research, gathered an overpowering number of testimonies, some of which had been presented at the Nezzar-Souaïdia trial in July 2002, in Paris. The most convincing testimony about the use of Zitouni by the secret services is undoubtedly the one of Ali Behadjar, to which we will return later. Anyway, the advent of Zitouni was the beginning of a complete drift of the GIA into blind violence, the religious dimension of which is just a facade.

 

An additional question arises concerning the date of Zitouni’s death. During all this period, no one saw him. The precise date of his death remains a mystery, all the more as the emirs of the GIA often have the characteristic of dying several times (the victory goes to Antar ZOUABRI with seven deaths announced in the press). It is generally said that Zitouni died on July 16, a few months after the monks, killed by the men of Ali Benhadjar, an emir of the GIA, rival to Zitouni; but that is far from being certain. Here is how Benhadjar told the story five years later, on December 27, 2001: "At nightfall, a landrover arrived. The operation (ambush) lasted maybe three minutes. Our men found weapons and documents. Consulting them, we understood that among the three passengers, there were one or two important leaders of the GIA. One of our men knew Djamel Zitouni, but he did not have time to identify him. A few days later, we learned that it was really he". This is not convincing. Besides, according to Abdelkader Tigha’s recent testimony, the man that Benhadjar thought he killed at that time had already died a few months before, a long time before the monks.

 

So then, what about the messages of the GIA signed by Zitouni?

 

            b) The messages of the GIA

 

            One thing is sure: Zitouni cannot have written these messages himself, and according to a specialist in writings of this kind, they are written in an Arabic that Zitouni would probably not have understood. (see Alain GRIGNARD, "La littérature politique du GIA algérien. Des origines à Djamal Zitouni. Esquisse d'une analyse", in Facettes de l’Islam belge, Bruxelles 1997,  pp.69-95; Idem "L'Islam radical en Belgique à travers la littérature de propagande : une introduction", ibidem, pp. 167-178).

 

            Recently, in the Cannal + program of Jean-Baptist Rivoire on Zitouni mentioned above, the editor of the newspaper El Hayat in London, where messages 43 and 44 of the GIA were published, asserted that at that time they received these messages by fax and published them without checking their authenticity, nor even their source.

 

            Thus one must conclude that Communiqué 43 of the GIA must be used with the greatest prudence, and that nothing it says must be considered as true and unquestionable if it is not proved so. It would be extremely imprudent to base on this odd text the affirmation that our brothers were killed "because of hatred of the Christian faith". It is more probable that this text, attributed to Zitouni, but nothing is less sure considering the theological illiteracy of Zitouni, is part of a vast manipulation where the religious dimension is nothing but a rather awkward facade.

 

            c) The long waiting

 

            The GIA was accustomed to kill, never to take hostages. If the goal was to eliminate the monks, it would have been more normal to kill them on the spot, as had happened for the Croatian workers at Tamesguida a few years before, and as it had happened for many Catholic monks and nuns eliminated the years before. If, on the contrary, one wanted to use them as exchange, why did they wait so long before sending a communiqué, and risking every day being discovered by the security forces intensely seeking their tracks? The scenario recently described by Abdelkader Tigha is up to now the only one that gives a satisfactory answer to this question, unless we think that the kidnappers wanted to make the GIA as odious as possible, in making the waiting longer. But to whose advantage?

 

 

4) Ventured explanations

 

            The explanation given by the authors of Communiqué 43 of the GIA, is that the monks were abducted because they were Christian heathens. It would have been legitimate to kill them, but they wanted to exchange them for Islamic prisoners. It is said that there was a whole list of them, but only one is mentioned: Abdelhak Layaada, who was in an Algerian jail (and the message was addressed to the French government!). Later, after Abdullah went to the French embassy and after Jacques Chirac’s declaration that "we will not negotiate", Communiqué 44 said as that as the French government had "cut short" the negotiation, they had cut the throat of the monks. This explanation of the motives of the kidnappers leaves us extremely perplexed considering Zitouni’s personality and the nature of these messages.

 

5) Hypotheses

 

            As no investigation has been made, and as the Algerian and the French authorities refuse to reveal what they know, we have the freedom and even the duty to work out and check all the possible hypotheses. Here are the main ones, based on the explicit accounts given, among others, by two men from very different backgrounds: Ali Benhadjar and Abdelkader Tigha. The first one, Ali Benhadjar, is an emir of the GIA. He distanced himself from it in 1996, to form his own movement, the Islamic League for the Daoua and the Djihad (Lidd). After having profited in 1997 from the law on the civil concord, he communicated to the press information about some events that remained without explanation, among others the murder of the seven monks of Tibhirine. The second one, Abdelkader Tigha, was an officer in the DRS (Department for Information and Security), the former Algerian Sécurité (SM). He was also lance sergeant at the CTRI (Territorial Center for Research and Investigation) in Blida, at the time of the abduction of the monks. Fleeing Algeria and asking for refuge in France, he was directed to Bangkok by the French DGSE. They subjected him to debriefing, but refused him to refuge in France. He has been waiting three years, at the Immigration Detention Center in Bangkok, for someone to find a place for him. Various organizations, as FIDH, Amnesty International, and the JRS (Jesuit Refugee Service) are currently striving to find a country of refuge for him. The accounts of these two witnesses, although diverging on details, are in agreement as a whole and give much light on many aspects of the case which were obscure before.

 

            a) the version of the facts according to Ali Benhadjar

 

            In a recent declaration in the Newspaper La Croix, Mgr Henri Teissier said: "We still keep to what we know from many people, among them Ali Benhadjar, an emir of the GIA in this area at the end of 1995, before he separated from it to create his own organization." Mgr. Teissier undoubtedly refers primarily to the long communiqué of the Islamic League for the Daoua and Djihad, entitled "The affair of the death of the seven monks in Algeria" signed by Abou Choeib Ali Benhadjar and dated July 17, 1997.

           

            René Guitton, in his book Si nous nous taisons..., published (pages 224-235) a truncated version of this text, which is undoubtedly the one Mgr. Teissier refers to in his statement in La Croix. Actually, Benhadjar strongly asserts two things: 1) that Djamel Zitouni is the author of the abduction of the monks and 2) that he acted for and in complicity with the security services, which he declared several times.

 

            The part of the text reproduced by Guitton has, on page 234, this disturbing sentence, to say the least: "When the drift of the GIA occurred, under the control of Zitouni manipulated by the security services..." But there is more. The Arab version of this document, of which I have a copy, has three appendices which are integrally part of the document. They are introduced by this sentence: "In the following pages, you will find three complementary appendices which illustrate our information". The first appendix opens with the following assertion:

 

Concerning the seven monks abducted in Médéa, the implication of the secret services seems very clear. No one can deny their implication, except idiots and uneducated people.

 

            A long list of arguments follows; this one is not the least: "The monks were abducted and lead away on foot for several kilometers. Most of them were old, and walked by night, in an area under the tight surveillance of the army. Where were the eyes of the guards and the sentinels, then?"

           

b) the version of the facts according to Abdelkader Tigha

 

            Recently, from his detention place in Bangkok, Abdelkader Tigha made public some information which is complementary to those of Benhadjar, even if it differs on some secondary points.

 

            According to Tigha, it is the Algerian Sécurité Militaire that organized the abduction of the monks. From London, Captain Haroun, of the MAOL, had asserted the same thing in testimonies collected in July 2001 and June 2002. After their abduction, the monks would have been interrogated by Mouloud Azzout, Zitouni’s right hand man, before being handed over to him. But the very strong rivalries existing within the GIA caused a certain Hocine Besiou, aka Abou Mosaâb, to require them to be transferred to him, and he took them to the area of Bougara. Zitouni had to yield, but the Sécurité Militaire required him to go and take them again. Still according to Tigha, he was killed on the way in an ambush set by the AIS. The French DST wanted to negotiate with Azzout but he disappeared, also.

 

            The story such as it is told by Tigha does not contradict anything that we know up to now. On the contrary, it gives much light on many points which were still obscure. The difference with the version of Benhadjar is very small. According to Benhadjar, it is Zitouni who had the abduction done by groups coming from Bougara and other places. According to Tigha, it is the Sécurité Militaire who supervised the task of these groups, and the monks were then entrusted to Zitouni. The difference is small as for the facts.

 

            But one can legitimately wonder what interest the Military Security had in doing such a thing. And what did they intend to do with the monks?

 

            Before answering these questions, we have to say a word about another similar situation which occurred a few years before: the affair of the hostages at the French Consulate in Algiers.

 

The case of the hostages at the French Consulate

 

            The book of René Guitton, describing in detail the tensions between the two services of the French Security, the DST and the DGSE, in their efforts to release the monks of Tibhirine, was published in May 2001, at about the same time as the publication of the description of another abduction, parallel to this one on many levels. The second clarifies the first.

 

On October 24, 1993, three state employees of the French consulate, Jean Claude and Michèle Thévenot and Alain Fressier, were abducted by an "Islamic" commando lead by a certain Sid Ahmed Mourad aka Djaafar el-Afghani. A communiqué of the kidnappers required the release of Abdelhak Laayada, chief of the GIA (the same man as in the message 43 of the GIA two years and a half later). The French secret services got going and General Smain Lamari, in charge of the Algerian secret services, reassured France that everything would be done to release the hostages. They were indeed released unharmed, three days later, under circumstances which seemed strange to everyone, all the more as the "official" version changed several times. After having been interrogated by the Algerian services, they received from the French services the prohibition to speak to the press, and they were assigned to new functions in the Indian Ocean.

 

The goal of this "pseudo abduction" was purely media. It intended to convince the French politicians and people of the dangers of Islamism on the one hand, and of the effectiveness of the Algerian secret services as well as of the fidelity of Algeria towards France, on the other hand. According to a detailed reconstitution of the facts, published on the MAOL (the Movement of the Officers of the Algerian Army, in dissidence with the current government) Web site, this operation was set up by the Algerian Sécurité in complicity with the French DST. This was not contradicted. The condition put by the DST was that no one would be killed. We know that two other scenarios had also been considered and then put aside: 1) the abduction of the French ambassador or 2) the abduction of a group of French religious. They preferred to choose state employees, easier to control. And everything ended well.

 

The most probable Scenario

 

            Considering all the known facts and bits of information given by the official authorities as well as other information coming from other sources, I consider that the most probable scenario, in the case of the abduction of the monks, is as follows:

 

We know that the presence of the monks at Tibhirine was extremely embarrassing to the army, and that they had wanted their departure for a long time. Their stubbornness to remain was irritating them. The fact that some "frères of the mountain" came to be healed by Brother Luc disturbed them even more. And especially, a few months before, the monks had been to some extent forced to let the "brothers of the mountain" use their telephone to make calls abroad. Undoubtedly, these calls were listened to and recorded. It was necessary at all costs that the monks leave Tibhirine!

 

            There is no reason to believe that they wanted to eliminate them physically. It is more probable than they wanted to repeat what had been so successful three years before. So they had them abducted by men recruited by Zitouni (version of Ali Benhadjar) or by the same men under the direction of the Sécurité Militaire who then entrusted them to Zitouni (version of Tigha). The two readings of the facts have the same result.

 

The intention of those who had organized this abduction of the monks was undoubtedly to have them "be released" by the army in the following days, after the publication of an Islamic manifesto (asking for the release of Abdelhak Layaada!), as in the case of the hostages of the Consulate. Once released, they would put them on a plane to Paris or would confine them at the nuncio’s residence, as they had wanted them to do the year before. But this time, things did not work according to the script.

 

            Zitouni did not have the authority he believed or wanted to have over all the Islamic Fundamentalist groups, or the one that SM thought he had. According to Tigha, another Islamic chief of the area of Bougara, Abou Mosaâb, swiped his hostages. And when he was sent to take them back, he was killed by the AIS, still according to Tigha (and not a few months later, as Benhadjar thinks). All that explains the one-month long silence before anyone knew anything. All that explains the long silence between the abduction and the first communiqué attributed to the GIA. Things had turned out badly.

 

All the steps made by the SM and the French DST to release them were unsuccessful. The situation had completely changed. Whereas in the message of the GIA dated April 26, it is said: "the GIA believes neither in a dialogue nor a truce...", the emissary who came to the French embassy on April 30 did not only request to negotiate but even requested the French to help to release the monks! The request made for an intervention of Jean-Charles Marchiani seems to indicate clearly that the strongman of the Sécurité Militaire, Smain Lamari, wanted to work with his friends of the DST and not with the DGSE. From this moment on everything became complicated.

 

            Unless new explanations on behalf of the authorities or new revelations from another source appear, I consider this last explanation as the most probable reconstitution of the events. No other explanation given up to now does justice to all the known facts.

 

            We still have to clarify the conditions of the death of our brothers. Were they beheaded? It is not very probable. Already in the days following their burial, some well informed people of Medea, close to the military milieux, told us with certainty that they had been killed with machine-guns, and beheaded after their death, even if the precise circumstances remained uncertain.

 

Besides, we know that at that time, in the area where the monks were held captive, there were many military interventions, with many mortars and napalm. This would explain the fact that they just wanted to show us their heads, their bodies being too damaged by the bullets, and that they were even very unwilling to let us see the heads. I personally carefully examined them all. According to the doctors of the military hospital, they had been buried for a few days, but they seemed mummified rather than decayed (which would be explained by the effect of napalm).

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The Algerian authorities certainly know more about it. It is not very probable that they will ever reveal anything of what they know. The French services have been very implicated in this affair, as Guitton’s book reveals with many details. They can and must say something more. We have the right, in particular, to know at what time they started to be implied in this affair and with whom they negotiated. As long as these explanations are not given, it is necessary to wonder whether the French secret services would not be implicated in the abduction itself, as they seem to have been in the affair of the state employees of the French Consulate. The arrival of General Philippe Rondot in Algiers just after the abduction and his confidence that all was going to be settled out in a few days lead us to think so. In the same way, the sending of Tigha to Bangkok by the French services looks strangely like the reassignment in the Indian Ocean of the three hostages of the French Consulate, as soon as their "release", three years earlier. Apparently, everything was to end in a simple transfer of the monks in Algiers or in France. But this time things turned out badly. This would explain the extreme nervousness of the embassies and other French official circles each time we tried to know more about it.

 

            We would have good reason to ask for a neutral international commission of inquiry. Will we ever have it?

 

           

December 31, 2002

                                                                       Armand Veilleux