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MUSLIMS

France ‘charges 10 ultra-right suspects over plot to attack Muslims’

French authorities have charged 10 suspected far-right extremists in connection with an alleged plot to attack Muslims, a judicial source said Thursday.

France 'charges 10 ultra-right suspects over plot to attack Muslims'
File photo: RAID police officers
The nine men and one woman aged 32 to 69 were arrested in raids across France on Saturday.
 
The suspects, whose detention was extended late Monday for a further 48 hours, had an “ill-defined plan to commit a violent act targeting people of the Muslim faith,” one source close to the probe said previously.
 
They appeared before a judge on Wednesday evening and were charged with “criminal terrorist conspiracy”, the source said.

   
Several were also charged with violations of firearms laws and the manufacture or possession of explosive devices.
 
Police have linked the ten to a little-known group called Action des Forces Operationnelles (Operational Forces Action), which urges French people to 
combat Muslims, or what it calls “the enemy within”.
 
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Police outside the home of Guy S., the alleged leader of a group linked with the ultra right 'AFO' . Photo: AFP

Rifles, handguns and homemade grenades were found during searches in the Paris area, the Mediterranean island of Corsica and the western Charentes-Maritimes region.  

Prosecutors said in a statement Wednesday that 36 firearms and thousands of rounds of ammunition were seized, as well as items in one suspect's home that 
could be used in the manufacture of TATP explosives.
 
The suspects include a retired police officer, identified only as Guy S., who was the alleged leader of the group, according to a source close to the investigation. The group also includes a former soldier.
   
France remains on high alert following a wave of jihadist attacks which have killed more than 240 people since 2015.
   
Officials have urged people not to confuse the actions of radicalised individuals with those of France's estimated six million Muslims — but anti-Islamic violence is on the rise.
   
The “Guerre de France” (War for France) website of the shadowy Operational Forces Action depicts an apocalyptic battle scene under the Eiffel Tower, and claims to prepare “French citizen-soldiers for combat on national territory” (see image below).
 
  
France's TF1 television has said the group planned to target radicalised imams and Islamist prisoners after their release from jail, as well as veiled women in the street chosen at random.
   
France registered 72 violent anti-Muslim acts last year, up from 67 in 2016.

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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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