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Monday, 15 July, 2002, 00:25 GMT 01:25 UK
Chirac escapes lone gunman's bullet
Arrest
A man was quickly overpowered by police (AP)
A man described as emotionally disturbed and with known neo-Nazi links is being held in the psychiatric unit of the Paris police force after he apparently tried to kill President Jacques Chirac.

The man, standing near the Arc de Triomphe, took a hunting rifle out of a guitar case and fired a shot as Mr Chirac was reviewing troops in an open-top jeep at the start of the Bastille Day parade.


I was sure that if a madman one day fired at the president, it would be said... he was from the extreme right

Jean-Marie Le Pen
Cries from the crowd alerted police and the man was overpowered and taken away. The parade then continued as normal.

President Chirac has yet to officially comment on the attack, although his wife and government ministers said it was a clear assassination attempt.

The suspect, named as 26-year-old Maxime Brunerie, admitted he wanted to kill the president, according to police.

Police record

Despite his past links to the far-right student group Groupe Union defence (GUD), officials believe he orchestrated this attack alone.

The Interior Minister, Nicolas Sarkozy, said he was a "militant of the extreme-right... known for his violence and with a police record".

Mr Sarkozy said President Chirac reacted with typical calm when he was told of the attempt on his life.

The president just replied "Oh, really", Mr Sarkozy said.

Mrs Chirac, asked whether there had been an attempt on her husband's life, said: "Yes, it's clear."

French presidents targeted
August 1962: Charles de Gaulle's car strafed by army officer
May 1962: Failed attempt to shoot de Gaulle
September 1961: Bomb explodes near de Gaulle's car
May 1932: Paul Doumer assassinated by Russian emigre
July 1922: Alexandre Millerand survives attack on Bastille Day
February 1919: Georges Clemenceau wounded by anarchist
May 1905: Failed attempt on Emile Loubet's life
June 1894: Sadi Carnot assassinated in Lyon
Nicolas Couteau, a spokesman for the police union Force Ouvriere, said the man had fired in the direction of the president's car, but the bullet went astray and no one was injured.

"I don't think there was any plot because the shooter would have used a gun of a larger calibre. It looks like the act of a demented person," he added.

Members of the public standing close to the attacker apparently knocked the weapon from his hands.

"We held on to the gun while someone else held him by the neck. People were shouting 'Police, police!' and that was when some (riot police) came," said Canadian tourist Mohamed Chelali.

Police said Mr Brunerie tried to commit suicide after the failed attempt.

"I wanted to kill the president and put an end to my own life," police quoted him as saying, adding that his speech was "disjointed".

Security threat

The parade - which marks the anniversary of the French Revolution in 1789 - continued down the Champs Elysees without interruption.

Chirac in open-top car
The president continued with the parade
But questions are now being asked about how the man managed to bring a gun to the parade despite heavy security.

The incident has also reawakened concerns in France over the emergence of the far-right.

President Chirac was returned to power in May, but only after voters from both left and right rallied behind him against Jean-Marie Le Pen, leader of the French far-right National Front.

Mr Le Pen has denied any connection to the gunman and condemned "all assassination attempts aimed at the representative of the state".

He added: "I was sure that if a madman one day fired at the president, then it would be said in one way or another that he was from the extreme right."

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's James Coomarasamy
"The gunman was already known to the French authorities"
See also:

14 Jul 02 | Europe
17 Jun 02 | Europe
16 Jun 02 | Europe
14 Jul 02 | Europe
19 Jun 02 | Country profiles
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