French magistrates investigating an attack in Pakistan blamed on Islamist militants that killed 11 French nationals in 2002 are looking into allegations it was linked to corrupt deals, lawyers for the victims’ families said.
A coach carrying French naval engineers and technicians was bombed as it left a hotel in Karachi in May 2002. The attack killed 14 people in total. Pakistani authorities at first blamed Islamist militants and two men were sentenced to death for taking part in the attacks, but their convictions were overturned on appeal in 2003.
Now, victims’ lawyer, Olivier Morice, says he believes the attack was orchestrated by unnamed Pakistani officials angry with France over the non-payment of bribes tied to a defence deal. “The investigating magistrates told us that they believed this scenario was extremely credible,” said Morice.
According to these allegations, some kickbacks ended up in the campaign funds of then Prime Minister Edouard Balladur, a rival of Jacques Chirac in the 1995 presidential election. President Nicolas Sarkozy was Balladur’s campaign manager in the ballot and was also budget minister when the lucrative sales contract for the French Agosta submarines was signed.
He has dismissed the allegations as “ridiculous.” “This is grotesque … We have to respect the grief of the families. Who would ever believe such a tale?” he added. Balladur has also denied any knowledge of wrongdoing.
French probe alleged Pakistani role in bombing