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Far-right suspects held over ‘violent’ plot against France’s Macron

François Mori, pool, AFP | French President Emmanuel Macron leaves Meuse in northeastern France Nov. 6, 2018.

Six people linked to French extreme right movements were detained Tuesday on suspicions they were preparing a "violent" plot against President Emmanuel Macron, sources close to the case told AFP.

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The five men and one woman, aged 22 to 62, were seized by France's DGSI domestic intelligence agency, which did not release their identities, one of the sources said.

Four suspects were picked up in the northeastern city of Moselle, a little more than an hour's drive from Verdun, which Macron was visiting Tuesday as part of weeklong commemorations of the World War I centenary.

Another was detained in southeast France and a sixth in the west.

The inquiry by the Paris prosecutor's office, which is in charge of terrorism investigations, is focusing on "a vague and ill-defined project at this stage", one of the sources said.

On Monday, Interior Minister Christophe Castaner had warned that France remained "on alert" over threats posed by "extremist networks both on the right and left, which are quite active in our country".

It was not the first known attempt against Macron.

In July 2017, a 23-year-old was charged with plotting to assassinate the president at France's Bastille Day military parade.

Suspects wanted to 'kill Macron, Muslims, blacks, Jews and homosexuals'

The man told investigators he wanted to kill Macron along with "Muslims, Jews, blacks and homosexuals". Three kitchen knives were found in his car and analysis of his computer found that he had conducted internet searches as part of his plot.

Several other suspected far-right members have been arrested since 2017 – the year Macron was elected president – after police found they might be preparing imminent attacks.

This summer 13 people with links to the radical Action des Forces Operationnelles (Operational Forces Action) group were arrested by anti-terrorist police over an alleged plot to attack Muslims.

And 10 people were also arrested in October 2017 over suspicions of wanting to target Muslims as well as politicians like the far-left firebrand Jean-Luc Melenchon as well as Castaner.

In a report filed by the DGSI as part of that investigation, it said the far right in France consisted of several disparate and competing groups with only "limited" operational capacity.

Plot days before world leaders set to visit Paris

In an interview published on Sunday, Macron warned of the threat from far-right movements across Europe, saying complacency during the 1930s was what had opened the way for the rise of Hitler in Germany and Mussolini in Italy.

The arrests came as Macron kicked off a seven-day tour of northeastern France to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the end of the First World War in Verdun.

The suspected plot was uncovered days before US President Donald Trump and dozens of other world leaders are due in France for commemorations this weekend of the signing 100 years ago of the November 11 armistice that ended World War I.

French presidents have been targeted several times over the decades, including in 2002 when a far-right sympathiser tried to attack President Jacques Chirac on the Champs-Élysées Avenue in Paris during Bastille Day celebrations.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP, AP, REUTERS)

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