French army chief resigns after shooting at military show

17 people shot and wounded when real bullets used instead of blanks.

Cuche 88 (photo credit: )
Cuche 88
(photo credit: )
France's army chief resigned Tuesday following a weekend military show in which 17 people were shot and wounded when real bullets were used instead of blanks. The country's defense minister suspended the use of blank munitions at public military shows. President Nicolas Sarkozy accepted Gen. Bruno Cuche's resignation, Sarkozy's office said Tuesday. Speaking on France-Info radio, Defense Minister Herve Morin praised Cuche as "a man with a conscience" who had made the decision to resign himself and had not been forced out. "He felt that the ... tragedy, beyond the incident linked to personal mistakes, revealed organizational defaults, malfunctionings," Morin later told reporters at a news conference Tuesday. He added that the general had brought up the possibility of resigning on Sunday, only hours after the incident. Investigators were looking into Sunday's display of hostage-freeing techniques at the Laperrine military barracks in southern France. The military blamed the shooting at a parachute regiment's open day for the public on "serious failings." Most of those injured were civilians, and three were children. Hospital officials said Monday that none of the injuries appeared life-threatening. The soldier who fired the bullets was quickly taken into custody. Montpellier Prosecutor Brice Robin said the shooting appeared to be unintentional. "According to his early statements, it appears that he made a mistake while loading his gun," Robin said. "This act was absolutely not premeditated; I want to be clear about this point." Without waiting for the results of the judicial and military investigations, Morin ordered the army chief of staff to prepare punishments for those responsible, the ministry said in a statement. It did not elaborate on what the sanctions would be. Sarkozy had promised there would be "consequences" after the shooting. "Everybody knows that you mustn't point a gun at the public," Morin said at Tuesday's press conference.