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Nationalists say they killed Corsican

Corsican nationalists claimed responsibility Monday for the assassination of the island's top official, and police commandos rounded up more than a dozen new suspects.

In an unsigned statement, the nationalists gave the serial number of the pistol used to kill Prefect Claude Erignac, which was stolen from a police station that Corsican militants blew up last year.The three-page statement denounced Erignac for his policies on the environment and agriculture and for his "deliberately militant role in the repression."

Erignac was fatally shot Friday night in a sidewalk attack. Corsica has been the site of separatist violence for 23 years by militants who want greater autonomy and aid from the government in Paris.

Earlier Monday, fire station sirens wailed, church bells rang and shops remained shuttered as much of Corsica stood still for 15 minutes to mourn the assassination.

Two youths were arrested shortly after the slaying and held over the weekend but were expected to be released for lack of evidence. French commando sweeps Monday across the Mediterranean island focused mainly on nationalists.

Most of the arrests took place in Ajaccio, the western port where Erignac was killed. Those arrested included members of splinter factions within Cuncolta, the political party of the militant Corsican National Liberation Front-Historic Wing.

Most Corsican nationalists have condemned Erignac's slaying. The Corsican National Liberation Front-Historic Wing issued a statement Monday denying any involvement despite ending its self-declared truce last month.