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French Mercenary, Comoros Coup-Plotter Bob Denard Dies

Bob Denard, a French mercenary who fought as a so-called soldier of fortune in several African countries, is dead at the age of 78, his family announced Sunday. Lisa Bryant has more in this VOA report from Paris.

Bob Denard was a well known figure in France, and in a number of postcolonial countries. Over several decades he was involved in uprisings in a number of African and Middle Eastern countries. He also was involved in in four coups or coup attempts in the Comoros Islands, where he served for a while as head of the presidential guard.

French author Jean Guisner, who has followed Denard's career and written extensively about the French government, says Denard did nothing that was contrary to French interests - and he allegedly acted in close cooperation with intelligence services.

Guisner told France Info radio that there was never an official demand in France for Denard to get involved in a particular country. But Guisner contends Denard would never have intervened at any point, without the tacit agreement of the French government. Experts say that particularly was the case during the presidency of Charles de Gaulle.

Experts say much of Denard's mercenary career took place between the 1950s and the 1980s. During that period, he is reported to have been involved in Nigeria, Benin, Angola, Zaire and the former Rhodesia - which is now Zimbabwe.

While his links to the French government reportedly declined when the left came to power in 1981, he continued to be active - especially in the Comoros.

Denard was born in the French city of Bordeaux in 1929. He joined the Free French Forces resisting the Nazi government at the end of World War II in southeast Asia. He served several more years with the French army after the war.

In 1999, Denard was cleared of being involved in the assassination of the president of Comoros, Ahmed Abdallah. But last year, a court in Paris gave him a five-year suspended sentence for his part in a 1995 coup attempt. The court said the French secret services were aware of that plot.

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