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France: Far-right militants held over terror plot to attack ‘politicians and mosques’

Ten people linked to a far-right extremist group were arrested in France on Tuesday over a suspected plot to target mosques and politicians, including a government spokesman, a source close to the investigation told AFP.

France: Far-right militants held over terror plot to attack 'politicians and mosques'
A recent meeting of "royalist" far right group Action Française Provence in Marseille. Photo: Action Francaise Provence/Twitter

The arrests of suspects aged 17-25 were made in the Paris region and southeast France as part of an investigation into far-right activists, the
source said.

The nine men and one woman are suspected of links to 21-year-old Logan Alexandre Nisin, a former militant of the far-right group Action Francaise Provence who was arrested in June, the source said.

One source said the woman arrested Tuesday is Nisin's mother.

Police investigations had unmasked “intentions to commit violent action” of which the details remained unclear, a judicial source said, but that involved “a place of worship, a politician, a migrant, drug trafficking”.

Another source named the targeted politicians as government spokesman Christophe Castaner and radical left leader Jean-Luc Melenchon.

A Melenchon spokesman complained that the former presidential candidate “was not informed and requests for protection during the legislative elections was rejected”.

 

The suspects, taken into custody for “association with terrorist wrongdoers”, were also thought to be plotting to target migrants as well as mosques.

“They were only in the earliest planning stages,” one source said.

Nisin was arrested near Marseille on June 28 after posting that he planned to attack blacks, jihadists, migrants and “scum”.

One of the probe sources said investigators had determined that Nisin, who possessed arms and practised shooting, had the intention of following through with his threats.

Nisin came to the attention of the French authorities as the administrator of a Facebook page glorifying neo-Nazi Anders Behring Breivik, who killed 77
people in a bomb and gun rampage in 2011 in Norway.

Action Francaise describes itself as a “royalist” organisation and held a meeting in a Marseille street at the weekend. A rival demonstration by anti-fascists was also held nearby and resulted in clashes between he two groups.

 

 

Liberation newspaper reported how riot police had to intervene to separate the two groups.

 

DEMONSTRATION

Tens of thousands march against far-right in France

Tens of thousands of people across France on Saturday marched against "attacks on freedoms" and what organisers said was a growing influence of far-right ideas ahead of next year's presidential elections.

Tens of thousands march against far-right in France
A "Freedom march" called by several organisations, associations and trade unions to "combat extreme right-wing ideas" on June 12. credit: SAMEER AL-DOUMY / AFP

Members of more than 100 left-leaning organisations participated in the “Liberty March” in cities and towns across the country.

The protests were the first opportunity for a divided left to take to the streets after a year and a half of Covid-19 restrictions.

Organisers reported 70,000 participants in Paris and 150,000 around the nation, while the Paris police and interior ministry put the numbers at 9,000 in the capital and 37,000 nationwide.

The interior ministry said 119 rallies had taken place.

In Nantes, western France, around 900 people rallied, according to the local prefecture, including scores of far-left militants who clashed with police.

In the Mediterranean port of Marseilles, more than a thousand demonstrators marched behind a CGT union banner that called for “unity to break down the capitalism that leads to fascism”.

Protesters vented against issues ranging from recent legislation they say chips away at liberties, such as a law that could see prosecutions for publishing images of police officers in action, to what they charge is a creep of far-right ideas into the mainstream ahead of next year’s elections.

In the southern city of Toulouse, a 54-year-old teacher and union activist who gave his name as Gauthier remarked that students had begun to challenge him and warned that “extreme right ideas are gaining ground”.

Far-right ideas “are no longer the monopoly of far-right parties and … have now largely penetrated the political class,” said Benoit Hamon, the Socialist presidential candidate in 2017.

In Paris, far-left leader Jean-Luc Melenchon had flour thrown in his face as he spoke to reporters.

A suspect arrested later in the day claimed to be a “sovereigntist” who social network specialists said broadcast far-right commentary on YouTube.

The move against Melenchon, who has been accused of fuelling conspiracy theories ahead of the presidential election, came days after President Emmanuel Macron was slapped in the face while shaking hands with people on a regional visit.

Other events that have caused concern in France recently are allegations of ties between far-left figures including Melenchon and Islamists, a YouTube video that simulated the execution of a militant from his France Unbowed party, and university gatherings at which Caucasian participants were allegedly not allowed to speak.

Jordan Bardella, vice president of the far-right National Rally (RN) party, dismissed the demonstrations on Saturday as a bid to deflect attention from Melenchon’s remarks on terrorism and the 2022 presidential election.

Groups that took part included Socialists, Communists, ecologists and trade unions.

READ MORE: Calls for nationwide day of demonstrations in France against ‘far-right ideology’

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