Paris attack: Lone madman brings France to a standstill

A deranged youth, acting out of a demented sense of purpose, brought France to a standstill on Bastille Day as he fired a shot at the motorcade which President Jacques Chirac was leading.

Bastille Day, July 14th. As President Jacques Chirac, 69, was being driven along the Avenue Friedland, near the Arc de Triomphe, Maxime Brunerie, a 25-year-old part-time chauffeur and activist for the student movement Groupe Union Defense, took out a 22 calibre rifle from a guitar case and managed to fire one round before being overpowered by onlookers first, and later police.

The Bastille Day celebrations, which included a fly-by with 90 aircraft and a procession with 4,000 troops, marking the anniversary of the overthrow of the French monarchy by Napoleon Bonaparte, continued as the scope of the attack was placed under the microscope.

Gone are the notions that the attack was part of a larger conspiracy. If Maxime Brunerie had been part of a professional hit-gang, certainly he would not have tried to use a rifle in the middle of a crowd, easy as it is to spot the weapon and overpower its handler. A professional would have chosen a handgun, much more difficult to detect.

Brunerie, described as “quiet”, “likeable” and “calm” by his neighbours, declared that “I wanted to kill the President and then put an end to my own life”. The National Front, led by Jean-Marie Le Pen, who managed to get through to the second round of the presidential elections in May, after the left-wing parties fragmented themselves into a myriad of candidates, distanced itself from this attack.

Jean-Marie Le Pen declared “I think that it is probably just a madman but I do not think it was an attempt on the President’s life, which I would never wish for”. Brunerie, who has been an activist for the Groupe Union Defence, a student xenophobic and fascist movement to the right of the National Front, has been taken to a secure psychiatric unit. His extremist activities have been known to the French police since 1997.

That he came anywhere near the President, wielding a loaded rifle, is worrying, even if his methods were bungling and amateurish.

Emilie ACQUITAINE PRAVDA.Ru Paris France

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