France Probing 1996 Murder of 7 Monks

PARIS, FEB. 12, 2004 (ZENIT.orgAvvenire).- The Paris Tribunal has opened an investigation into the kidnapping and decapitation of seven French monks in Algeria in 1996, saying new testimony cast doubt on the official reports of the murders.

The Trappist monks belonged to Our Lady of the Atlas monastery in Tibhirine. They were killed by an armed commando of some 20 men.

The March 1996 kidnapping of the monks was reported in a statement a month later by Djamel Zitouni, leader of the Armed Islamic Group (GIA), who proposed an exchange of prisoners with France. A second GIA statement, in May, announced the monks’ deaths.

Since then, other accounts have cast doubt on that version of the events. Former military personnel and intelligence agents have contended that the Algerian government’s secret services participated indirectly in the crime.