Speech by the Minister on the hostage-taking in Wasserbillig


  1. I would like to draw conclusions from the drama surrounding the Wasserbillig hostage drama.

The tragic events which occurred over a period of 28 hours from Wednesday into Thursday, here in Luxembourg and more particularly in Wasserbillig, showed how solidarity on a local, regional, national and international level was of great assistance in overcoming these tragic events.

  • I would like first of all to emphasise the fact that our Grand Ducal Family was kept constantly informed of the situation in Wasserbillig, and provided considerable moral support during those difficult hours.

  • My first thoughts are:

  1. with the three teachers who, in this difficult situation showed courage and immense inner fortitude, and who, despite everything that happened to and around them, were able with love and attention to see to the well-being of the children and then to look after themselves.

  2. with the parents involved, who suffered a great deal during those two days, when they could only fear the worst for their children. Anyway, as a father of three children myself, I can easily understand their situation.

  3. We were able to see how, as the hours went by, solidarity was established on a local and a regional level in Wasserbillig, and its surroundings. We had a great many people who offered themselves as hostages in place of the children, and a great many people who also offered their assistance in the negotiations with the kidnapper (for example the Mayor of Manternach Henri Frank and his wife). We were also able to see how the inhabitants of Wasserbillig and surroundings gave their valuable support at a logisitical level. Many of them helped by supporting those involved on the spot, for example in the case of providing supplies to all those involved (I would mention here, for one instance among many, the baker in Wasserbillig who worked unceasingly throughout the night to cook bread rolls). At a local level, my thanks go to Mayor Gust. Stefanetti and his team, who from first to last gave their support to their citizens.

  • The entire operation was only successful thanks to the exemplary co-operation between the various institutions and organisations concerned in the operation, and whose representatives are seated around this table.

  • State Prosecutor Roby Biwer, who took responsibility for the final assault.

  • The Grand Ducal Police (operating on two levels):

  1. at Headquarters in the City of Luxembourg, where operations were co-ordinated under the supervision of two Assistant Directors, Romain Netgen and Jean Clement, Pierre Reuland, Head of Operations, and Marc Zovilé, Head of the “Police Judiciare”.

  2. in Wasserbillig, where operations on the ground were run by Madame Andrée Colas and Mr. Jos. Schmidt (both Divisional Commissioners).

In this context, a special thank-you goes to those people who found themselves in direct contact with the kidnapper in running the negotiations, and to the members of the Special Unit of the Grand Ducal Police who organised and carried out the final assault.

Being in charge, we were able to observe the professionalism with which the police mastered their difficult task.

And of course I would not like to miss the opportunity to thank, for their technical on-the-spot support, the German authorities and police, headed by the L.K.A in Düsseldorf and the police force of the Rhineland Palatinate.

This operation confirmed what I said just a few days ago on the RTL programme “Top Thema”: that the Grand Ducal Police have become a force where the two structures, the Police and the Grand Ducal Gendarmerie, have been melded into one unit, concentrating wholly and closely together on their responsibilities and their tasks. I would not be going to far in stating that the fine co-ordination at a police level in this operation was only possible thanks to the merger between the Police and the Gendarmerie.

  • The Civil Defence (the intervention of which was under the control of its Director Léon Anen, who with his men and volunteers played a major role, especially in providing support to the parents concerned). I would also like to express my gratitude to the Psychological Support Unit, under its Head, Léon Kraus. Throughout the last 48 hours, this unit has represented a vital link in chain, through the support which it provided to the families night and day. But their work is not finished, because psychological assistance is also necessary after the conclusion of such an event and intensive follow-up will be required.

  • My thanks also go out to all the volunteers who found themselves on the spot during those two days, as well as the hospital staff who were prepared and available the entire time. We should note that the “major casualties” plan was implemented on this occasion.

  • My thanks also go to the forces in Mertert and Wasserbillig in particular, but also to the Fire Brigade for the Canton of Grevenmacher in general, led by Regional Inspector Jos. Schummer, whose equipment was available on-site for the entire period.

  • I also thank Minister of the Interior Claude Freiseisen, who was also on the spot, ensuring liaison with me.

  • I would also like to thank other Members of the Government (Prime Minister Jean-Claude Juncker and Minister of Justice Luc Frieden) who supported me in the City of Luxembourg, as well as Madame Lydie Polfer and Madame Marié-Josée Jacobs, who were busy on the spot, looking after the people involved. It is also to be noted that the foreign authorities, whose citizens were involved, gave moral support through their Ambassadors. The Portuguese community, which represented 50% of the people involved, received on-the-spot support from Mr. José Lello, Secretary of State to the Portuguese Communities Abroad.

  • Our sincere thanks go also to the Luxembourg press, for the manner in which they dealt with the affair, and for the collaboration which was possible with them in this difficult situation, a collaboration which would certainly not have been possible abroad. The reason is, perhaps, that in Luxembourg we feel more directly concerned by misfortune, and that we are not on the lookout for sensation.

In conclusion, sincere gratitude is expressed on behalf of Grand Duke Jean and Grand Duchess Joséphine Charlotte, Hereditary Grand Duke Henri and Hereditary Grand Duchess Maria Teresa, and the Luxembourg Government, to all those who contributed, in whatever way, to the success of this operation.

Nevertheless, my greatest desire is that the parents concerned, and their children, as well as the three teachers, will rapidly recover from these difficult moments of their lives. In any event we will continue in the future to all we can to help them.

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