PARIS – French ex-secret service boss Pierre Lacoste, synonymous with the deadly sinking of Greenpeace’s Rainbow Warrior protest ship in New Zealand in 1985, has died at the age of 95, his family said.
Lacoste died in a retirement home, his son, Marc, told AFP.
“My father was simply very old,” he said. “He was at the end of his strength. He died peacefully in his bed.”
Lacoste headed France’s DGSE spy agency when frogmen working for French intelligence slipped into Auckland Harbour on July 10, 1985, and fixed limpet mines to the hull of the Greenpeace ship.
Portuguese photographer Fernando Pereira died in the subsequent blasts, which New Zealand’s then-prime minister, David Lange, described as “a sordid act of international state-backed terrorism.
The Rainbow Warrior had docked in Auckland on its way to protest French nuclear tests at Mururoa Atoll, about 1,200 km (750 miles) southeast of Tahiti.
But the DGSE had other ideas, launching the ominously titled “Operation Satanique,” supervised by Lacoste, to stop it.
The mission was unprecedented — bombing a peaceful protest vessel without warning in the territory of an allied nation.
Lacoste was fired in the ensuing debacle that also toppled then-defense minister Charles Hernu.
Born in Paris in 1924, Lacoste started his navy career in 1943, commanded several ships, taught at the Naval War College and attained the rank of admiral in 1982 before taking over the helm of the DGSE.
He later wrote that Operation Satanique had been “too complicated, too risky, and above all reprehensible in principle,” and told AFP that he accepted responsibility for the “mistake” even though he insisted that he had received the green light from then-President Francois Mitterrand.
After he was fired, Lacoste went on to pursue a long academic career, writing several books and articles.
He leaves behind a widow and seven children.