Exclusive: Rainbow Warrior bomber breaks his silence after 30 years

The French secret agent who placed the bombs which sank the Rainbow Warrior has broken a 30-year silence to talk to TVNZ's Sunday programme about what went wrong with the operation.

The Sunday programme has tracked down the French secret service agent who blew up the Rainbow Warrior, killing a crew member. Source: 1 NEWS

The attack in Auckland on July 10, 1985 was aimed at preventing the Greenpeace ship from protesting French nuclear testing at Mururoa atoll in French Polynesia.

Two bombs were detonated before midnight sinking the vessel, however they also caused the death of Greenpeace photographer Fernando Pereira.

The Sunday team tracked down Colonel Jean Luc Kister, the man who led the dive team. He agreed to an exclusive on-camera interview.

Colonel Kister says he was surprised when he learned of the mission code-named Operation Satanic by the DGSE, France's secret service.

Colonel Jean Luc Kister Source: Sunday

"For us it was just like using boxing gloves in order to crush a mosquito," he says," it was a disproportionate operation, but we had to obey the order, we were soldiers."

He says that even though the operation sank the Rainbow Warrior it was a "big fail".

Kister, who was a captain at the time, says that while he planted and set the bombs he did not have overall command of the mission. He says he did not make the bombs nor did he decide on the sequence in which they were timed to explode.

Rainbow Warrior skipper Peter Willox has always described Fernando Pereira's death as "murder" however Jean Luc Kister says "while I underand his point of view" the aim of the mission was "not to injure anyone".

France sent at least 13 agents to the Pacific to carry out the sinking. Two of them, Dominique Prieur and Alain Mafart, were arrested and imprisoned.

A second team of agents who brought the bombs to New Zealand in the charter yacht Ouvea  escaped.

At first the French Minister of Defence Charles Hernu denied French involvement in the actual bombing claiming Prieur and Mafart had simply been observing the Greenpeace ship.

However he was forced to resign 30 years ago this month after the French newspaper Le Monde revealed a third team of French combat divers had been involved.

This week Sunday revealed what went wrong, who was ultimately responsible and how he was protected.