Soldier surrenders after threat to blow up depot

/ Source: The Associated Press

A French soldier who had locked himself in an explosives depot and threatened to blow it up turned himself in Monday, the Interior Ministry said, ending a three-day standoff that prompted the evacuation of hundreds of villagers in northeastern France.

Angered about being forced to retire, 46-year-old Regis Le Tohic on Friday seized control of the depot where he worked near the town of Fere-Champenoise, about 60 miles east of Paris.

The warehouse contained 60 tons of explosives, mostly anti-tank mines.

Dozens of police officers blocked off the warehouse, while rescue workers fanned out in nearby villages to escort some 400 residents beyond the safety perimeter, officials said. Flights were redirected around the area.

Officials over the weekend had said they found a letter addressed to the Defense Ministry in front of the depot in which Le Tohic, a warrant officer and explosives expert, had threatened to blow up the site.

Interior Minister Dominique de Villepin expressed his “satisfaction on the conditions in which the negotiation conducted” was carried out, said a statement that gave no further details.

Le Tohic, who is divorced, had been turned down for a promotion he had requested, officials said. He was demanding the army reconsider his case.

Under French law, warrant officers like Le Tohic are required to retire at age 47 — which he will turn on Dec. 17, Chanliau said.