Former France soccer player Karembeu says two of his relatives have been killed in New Caledonia

PARIS (AP) — Former soccer player Christian Karembeu, a 1998 World Cup winner with France, says two of his relatives have been killed during the unrest in the French Pacific territory of New Caledonia.

Speaking during an interview with Europe 1 radio on Monday, the former Real Madrid midfielder said his two relatives were shot in the head by snipers.

“I’ve lost family members, that’s why I’ve kept quiet,” Karembeu said. “Because I’m in mourning.”

Asked if these were assassinations, Karembeu replied: “I didn’t want to, because the word is strong, but … it’s true that, yes, it’s an assassination and we hope that there will be inquiries and investigations into these murders.”

French President Emmanuel Macron decided on Monday to lift the state of emergency that was imposed this month. Seven people have died as a result of the violence that erupted in New Caledonia. Protests kicked off against the French government’s attempts to amend the French Constitution and change voting lists in New Caledonia.

Opponents fear the measure will benefit pro-France politicians in New Caledonia, where pro-independence Indigenous Kanaks have long pushed to be free of France, amid sharp economic disparities.

Karembeu, who is Kanak, grew up on the island of Lifou in New Caledonia. After moving to France as a teenager, he went on to win two Champions League titles with Madrid as a midfielder. He started for France in the 1998 World Cup final and was also part of the team that won the 2000 European Championship.

New Caledonia became French in 1853 under Emperor Napoleon III, Napoleon’s nephew and heir. It became an overseas territory after World War II, with French citizenship granted to all Kanaks in 1957.

Karembeu’s great-grandparents were shipped to Paris in 1931 from the islands and exhibited as “cannibals.”

The seven people killed in shootings included at least three from the Indigenous Kanak community and two gendarmes. One of the gendarmes was killed when a weapon discharged accidentally, French Interior Ministry said.

France’s top official in New Caledonia, High Commissioner Louis Le Franc said on Monday that more than 122 police officers and gendarmes have been injured in the unrest and more than 460 people have been arrested since the protests turned violent on May 14.

Le Franc did not give the number of injured civilians in the unrest.


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