Bob Denard, veteran dog-of-war, dead at 78

15th October 2007, Comments 0 comments

15 October 2007, PARIS (AFP) - France's best-known mercenary Bob Denard, who played a part in numerous African wars and coups d'etat from the 1960s, died Saturday at the age of 78, his family said. He had been suffering from Alzhaeimer's disease.

15 October 2007

PARIS (AFP) - France's best-known mercenary Bob Denard, who played a part in numerous African wars and coups d'etat from the 1960s, died Saturday at the age of 78, his family said. He had been suffering from Alzhaeimer's disease.

Denard, whose real name was Gilbert Bourgeaud, became famous as a soldier for hire in a succession of post-colonial war theatres, including Congo, Angola and Nigeria, as well as Iran and Yemen.

Bob Denard

He also took part in four coups or coup attempts in the Indian ocean statelet of the Comoros Islands, where he served for a time as head of the presidential guard after converting to Islam.

In 2006 he was given a suspended five year jail term in Paris for a failed 1995 putsch in the Comoros. This was increased at an appeal court last July to a year in jail with three suspended, but he never served it due to ill health.

Born in the southwestern city of Bordeaux in 1929, Denard joined the Free French Forces in Indochina at the end of World War II and served in the army until 1952, when he became a policeman in Morocco.

A fervent anti-communist, he began his mercenary career in 1960 helping  secessionists in the Katanga region of Congo, and in 1964 was backing royalists in Yemen.

Over the next decades he is believed to have seen action in the former Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe), Nigeria, Benin, Angola, Zaire and -- extensively -- the Comoros. He was the model for the hero of British author Frederick Forsyth's book about African mercenaries, "The Dogs of War".

Though nothing was ever admitted, it is widely believed that many of his adventures had the tacit approval of the authorities in Paris and especially of Jacques Foccart -- president Charles de Gaulle's Africa pointman who was anxious to maintain French influence on the continent.

During his three-week trial in February 2006, the defence produced a former head of the foreign intelligence service who said: "When special services are unable to undertake certain kinds of undercover operation, they use parallel structures. This was the case of Bob Denard."

After the 1981 election of Socialist president Francois Mitterrand, Denard's privileged contacts in Paris declined, but for many years he remained a highly influential figure inside the Comoros -- the small archipelago off the east African coast.

He first staged a coup there in 1975 -- just after the country's declaration of independence from France and probably at French instigation -- and again in 1978 to restore the ousted first president Ahmed Abdallah.

Denard then became head of Abdallah's presidential guard, converting to Islam, taking the name Said Mustapha Mahdjoub and forging a strategic alliance with South Africa. But in 1989 Abdallah was assassinated in murky circumstances, and Denard fled.

In 1995 he came out of retirement at the age of 66 for a last throw of the dice. This last Comoran putsch failed when the French army intervened after a week -- though claims that Paris knew all along of Denard's plot were strengthened when there was no attempt to restore president Said Mohamed Djohar, who Denard had ousted.

Married seven times and the father of eight children, Denard spent his later years between Paris and his home in the Medoc wine-growing region of southwest France. In 1993 he received a suspended jail term for organising a failed coup in Benin, and in 1999 he was cleared of involvement in the killing of Abdallah.

With his white hair and tweed suits, Denard took on the air of a friendly grandfather. He walked with a limp and boasted of his "five wounds -- not counting scratches."

AFP

Subject: French news

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