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TERRORISM

Man drives car into crowd in southern France leaving two injured

A man drove into a crowd of revellers gathered outside a bar in the southern city of Nimes in the early hours of Friday morning. The incident occurred on the eve of the city's Feria de Nimes festival.

Man drives car into crowd in southern France leaving two injured
Photo: AFP

A man drove into a crowd of patrons gathered outside a bar in the southern city of Nimes early Friday, slightly wounding two before hitting a security barrier and being arrested, witnesses and local officials said.

The 32-year-old suspect, believed to be a local, sped towards a crowd of about 50 outside the “L'Instant T” bar at around 1:00 am (2300 GMT Thursday), witnesses at the scene told AFP.

However his white Peugeot ran into barriers set up for the Feria de Nimes, a popular weekend festival featuring bull-fighting which attracts thousands of people each year.

Several witnesses told AFP that the man shouted “Allahu Akbar” (God is Greatest) during the incident a cry which has been uttered by jihadists during previous attacks.

A source close to the investigation said the man was not known to police for suspected radicalisation and reports suggest police do not believe the attack was motivated by terrorism.

The region's public prosecutor Eric Maurel said the suspect tried to flee but was caught and roughed up by the crowd.

He was in a state of “mental confusion” during his arrest and has been hospitalised, Maurel added.

An investigation has been opened into attempted murder.

France has been on high alert following a string of jihadist attacks in recent years, often by people who have become radicalised or claim to have acted in the name of the IS group.

More than 240 people have been killed by Islamist extremists since a massacre at the Charlie Hebdo satirical magazine in Paris in January 2015.

Ever since the Nice attack in July 2016 when a jihadist rammed his truck into crowds celebrating July 14th towns and cities have taken steps to boost security including placing barriers and concrete bollards around areas where crowds gather.

Security has been stepped up at festivals around the country including Nimes

 

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TERRORISM

US vice president lays wreaths at site of 2015 Paris terror attacks

US Vice President Kamala Harris and French Prime Minister Jean Castex laid wreaths at a Paris cafe and France's national football stadium Saturday six years since deadly terror attacks that left 130 people dead.

US vice president lays wreaths at site of 2015 Paris terror attacks
US Vice President Kamala Harris and her husband Doug Emhoff lay flowers after ceremonies at Le Carillon bar and Le Petit Cambodge restaurant, at which 130 people were killed during the 2015 Paris terror attacks. Photo: Sarahbeth Maney/POOL/AFP

The attacks by three separate teams of Islamic State group jihadists on the night of November 13, 2015 were the worst in France since World War II.

Gunmen mowed down 129 people in front of cafes and at a concert hall in the capital, while a bus driver was killed after suicide bombers blew themselves up at the gates of the stadium in its suburbs.

Harris, wrapping up a four-day trip to France, placed a bouquet of white flowers in front of a plaque honouring the victims outside a Paris cafe.

Castex attended a minute of silence at the Stade de France football stadium, along with Paris mayor Anne Hidalgo, before laying wreaths at the sites of the other attacks inside Paris.

In front of the Bataclan concert hall, survivors and relatives of the victims listened to someone read out the names of each of the 90 people killed during a concert there six years ago.

Public commemorations of the tragedy were called off last year because of the coronavirus pandemic.

“Last year we weren’t allowed to come and we all found it really tough,” said Bruno Poncet, who made it out alive of the Bataclan.

But he said the start of a trial over the attacks in September meant that those attending the commemoration this year felt more united.

‘Overcome it all’

“We’ve really bonded thanks to the trial,” he said. “During previous commemorations, we’d spot each other from afar without really daring to speak to each other. We were really shy. But standing up in court has really changed everything.”

The marathon trial, the biggest in France’s modern legal history, is expected to last until May 2022.

Twenty defendants are facing sentences of up to life in prison, including the sole attacker who was not gunned down by police, Salah Abdeslam, a French-Moroccan national who was captured in Brussels. Six of the defendants are being tried in absentia.

Poncet said he felt it was crucial that he attend the hearings. “I can’t possibly not. It’s our lives that are being discussed in that room, and it’s important to come to support the others and to try to overcome it all.”

Survivors have taken to the witness stand to recount the horror of the attacks, but also to describe life afterwards.

Several said they had been struggling with post-traumatic stress disorder, grappling with survivor’s guilt, or even feeling alienated from the rest of society.

Saturday’s commemorations are to wrap up with a minute of silence at the Stade de France in the evening before the kick-off for a game between France and Kazakhstan.

It was during a football match between France and Germany that three suicide bombers blew themselves up in 2015.

Then-French president Francois Hollande was one of the 80,000 people in the crowd, before he was discreetly whisked away to avoid triggering mass panic.

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