‘Assassination’ attempt on Jacques Chirac fails
A deranged neo-Nazi has fired a rifle shot near French President Jacques Chirac in an apparent assassination attempt during France's Bastille Day parade, but the man was quickly subdued and the march continued uninterrupted.
The man pulled the .22 calibre sporting rifle out of a brown guitar case and fired as Mr Chirac passed by in an open military jeep on the Champs Elysees at the head of the march commemorating the 1789 French Revolution.
The man was rapidly thrown to the ground, handcuffed and led away by police - both uniformed and plainclothed - responding to cries from onlookers standing opposite the Arc de Triomphe.
A Paris magistrate said the man appeared highly disoriented in a subsequent interrogation, but had confessed to having targeted the president.
"He admitted he intended to kill the president, but his words were very confused and incoherent," he said.
A police statement said the individual was 25 years old and was "known to belong to neo-Nazi and hooligan movements".
After the interrogation, police sources said he was sent to a police psychiatric unit for observation. The sources said police investigators were searching the man's home in Courcouronnes, south of Paris.
A French-Canadian tourist, Mr Mohamed Chelali, who witnessed the incident told LCI television the man had clearly aimed at Chirac.
"Mr Chirac was passing by in his car when I felt the crowd move on my right side," Mr Chelali said. "Then I saw, two or three metres from me, a man aiming in the direction of the president."
But the police did not transfer the case to the anti-terrorist unit and appeared to be treating it as an isolated incident.
"He fired in the direction of the car but the bullet went astray and nobody was injured," said Nicolas Couteau of the Force Ouvriere police union.
"I don't think there was any plot because the shooter would have used a gun of a larger calibre," he added. "It looks like the act of a demented person."
The parade went ahead under cloudy skies, and followed calls from Mr Chirac for higher defence spending to fight terrorism and catch up with Europe's other main military power, Britain.