'He said their bodies were riddled with bullets'
Then the general continued: "This is difficult for me because it is something I was asked not to talk about," he began. "I had spoken to Father Veilleux [one of the current civil parties and who discovered that the coffins contained only the monks' heads], to Mgr Teissier and to the ambassador. Just so you understand, I have ties of friendship with several Algerian officers who trained at Saint Cyr1 and it was in this capacity that I met someone whose name I would rather keep quiet because it's possible his brother is still in Algeria."
This anonymous source, according to General Buchwalter, "had a career as an officer then became a businessman in Algeria. He ran a bus company and I saw him often. He was a friend."
"Several days after the monks' funeral, he told me something that his brother had told him in confidence," the general continued. "His brother commanded one of two helicopter squadrons posted in the First Military Command which is headquartered at Blida. His brother was flying one of the two helicopters during a mission in the Blida Atlas [mountain range], between Blida and Medea. This was a cleared zone and the helicopter crew saw a bivouac. As this was a cleared zone, this could only be an armed group [of rebels]. So, they fired on the bivouac. Then they landed, which was quite courageous because there could have been survivors. They took some risks. Once on the ground, they discovered that they had shot [among others] the monks. The monks bodies were riddled with bullets. The Blida CTRI [local Algerian secret services outpost] was informed via radio."
General Buchwalter said there were probably "about a dozen armed men" in the helicopters, adding that he remembered having met, after the funerals, "a gendarmerie doctor2 attached to the French Embassy" and whose name he had "forgotten."
"He had a lot of trouble talking to me about it because the ambassador had made him promise secrecy. I asked him if he had seen the bodies, since my friend told me they were riddled with bullets, and that's when he told me there were only the heads [...] He told me that the heads had spent a long time in the ground, that it was dreadful," the general said.
1: The French military academy.
2: "medécin du renfort de gendarmerie" in the original French.