21 March: Daniel Forestier, 57, a former soldier and agent of the Direction Gėnėrale de la Sėcuritė Extėrieur (DGSE), France’s foreign intelligence service, has been found shot dead. His body was found in a parking area on a remote road in Haute-Savoie near Lake Leman. Five shots had been fired into his chest and head at close range.
Forestier’s name had recently come to public attention when he was placed under investigation by the French authorities on suspicion of involvement in a plot to assassinate General Ferdinand Mbaou. Mbaou is a senior opposition figure in Congo-Brazzaville and seen as a serious threat to President Sassou Nguesso. Nguesso has led the country since taking power in a coup in 1997 and was recently re-elected (March 2016). Forestier had also been charged with the possession of explosives.
While serving in the DGSE for fourteen years it appears that Forestier had been assigned to the military wing. He had not exactly hidden from the public gaze since his retirement – he was also the author of several French spy thrillers. He lived with his wife and two children about fifteen kilometres away from the scene of the murder, in the village of Lucinges, where he had served as a local councillor. He also ran a bar in the village.
It seems that one or more of Forestier’s former associates had arranged to meet him at the remote location to discuss his predicament and that he did not realise that they had taken the decision to eliminate him. Bruno Susini, another former DGSE employee also under investigation for the assassination plot, is understood to have gone into hiding at a secret location in Paris.
Anyone looking for context of France’s long and secretive involvement in the affairs of the Congo could do worse than watch the recent movie “The Siege of Jadotville” (2016) in which a force of just 155 UN peacekeepers from Ireland withstood a week long siege by more than 3,000 Congolese mercenaries led by DGSE agents in 1961. The question that is haunting French intelligence circles at the moment is: given France’s long involvement in the country, was Forestier’s involvement more than just a private venture?