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France: ‘Attacker in Avignon is anti-Muslim extremist’

Assailant wore jacket of neo-Nazi, far-right group, but prosecutors rule out terrorism probe

Cindi Cook   | 30.10.2020
France: ‘Attacker in Avignon is anti-Muslim extremist’

PARIS

A man who was shot dead by police in the French city of Avignon after accosting passers-by is suspected of belonging to an anti-Muslim, far-right group, local media reported on Friday. 

The suspect was killed on Thursday just after 11 a.m. (1000GMT) in the southern city’s Montfavet district. He had been seen wielding a handgun in the street, and reportedly threatened a North African shopkeeper.

Police approached and requested the man drop his weapon, employing a flash-ball shot to subdue him. The officers fired on the suspect when he failed to comply.

Initial reports on Thursday in local and international media falsely claimed that the suspect was an “Islamist” who shouted "Allahu Akbar" (God is great) in the street.

Police sources told French daily Le Figaro that the suspect had been undergoing psychiatric treatment and was believed to be a member of the far-right group Generation Identitaire.

However, prosecutors ruled out terrorism as a possible motive.

Generation Identitaire is the French branch of anti-migrant, xenophobic group Generation Identity, which has attracted young people through social media, exploiting fears over refugees and terrorism.

Its leading members have propagated white supremacist ideas and anti-Muslim and racist conspiracy theories.

According to local media reports, the 33-year-old suspect was wearing a neo-Nazi jacket with a "Defend Europe" logo.

Thursday saw two other terror incidents in French territory, as well as one overseas, the latest in a string of violence to grip the country over the last few months.

A brutal attack took place Thursday morning in Nice with the fatal stabbing of two women and one man at the Basilica of Notre Dame de l'Assumption. One of the women was beheaded. Police arrested the assailant, who remains in hospital with gunshot wounds.

At the scene of the attack, President Emmanuel Macron called the incident "an Islamist terrorist attack."

Leaders of the Muslim community in France have condemned the recent terror attacks, stressing that extremists abuse religion for their goals and their actions cannot be justified through Islam.

Also on Thursday, another man wielding a knife was arrested in Lyon near the Perrache railway station.

Another man attacked a security guard with a knife at the French Consulate in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, causing injuries.

The National Anti-Terrorism Prosecutor's Office opened an investigation, and Prime Minister Jean Castex on Thursday placed France at an emergency level anti-terrorism alert.

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