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Emmanuel Macron assassination plot foiled by French police

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A man has been charged with plotting to assassinate French President Emmanuel Macron on Bastille Day during US President Donald Trump’s visit to France, a spokeswoman for the Paris Prosecutor’s office said Monday.

Spokeswoman Agnès Thibault-Lecuivre told CNN a 23-year-old suspect had been arrested.

Investigators said the man planned to attack Macron on July 14, during an parade on the Champs-Élysées in Paris, where President Trump is set to be a guest of honor, according to public service radio broadcaster, France Info.

The suspect was arrested on Wednesday in the north-west Paris suburb of Argenteuil by anti-terror services, and was charged with “individual terrorist activity” on Saturday.

A self described far right nationalist, the man told police he wanted to make a political statement by killing Macron, CNN affiliate BFMTV reported.
He also said he wanted to attack, “blacks, Arabs, Jews and homosexuals,” according to police documents seen by BFMTV.

Security forces were alerted by users of a video game site, after the suspect posted about allegedly wanting to buy a Kalashnikov-type weapon to commit an attack, BFMTV said.

Police said it is too early in the investigation to say if the suspect is linked to a wider network, but he was convicted of terror related activity in 2016, according to France Info.

Last year, 86 people were killed in a truck attack during Bastille Day festivities in Nice, France.

On Monday, Macron said he would lift the state of emergency imposed upon the country since November 2015 later this year.

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Pedestrians injured in car collision near London museum

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LONDON — British emergency services raced to London’s Natural History Museum after a car struck pedestrians Saturday outside the building. Police said a number of people were injured and one person was detained at the scene.

The crash happened at 2:20 p.m. on a day when the central London museum is usually teeming with pedestrians, including international tourists.

Photographs showed a dented silver car and a man being pinned to the ground outside the museum. It was not immediately clear if he was pinned down by police or others at the scene.

The London Ambulance Service was tending to the injured. There was no immediate statement on the number or severity of the injuries.

Shopkeepers in the immediate area were told to evacuate and police established a large security cordon around the area minutes after the incident.

Police said they are working to establish the circumstances of the crash and more details would be released later.
The Natural History Museum tweeted that there had been a “serious incident” outside the museum, which is located near the world famous Victoria and Albert Museum and other attractions.

Downing Street said British Prime Minister Theresa May was being briefed on the incident.

London’s official terrorist threat level has been set at “severe,” indicating an attack is highly likely.

There have been a series of terror attacks on London and Manchester this year, including vehicle attacks on pedestrians at Westminster Bridge and London Bridge.

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Germany Chancellor Merkel wins fourth term

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Chancellor Angela Merkel clinched a fourth term in Germany’s election Sunday, but her victory was clouded by the entry into parliament of the hard-right AfD in the best showing for a nationalist force since World War II.

Merkel, who after 12 years in power held a double-digit lead for most of the campaign, scored around 33 per cent of the vote with her conservative Christian Union (CDU/CSU) bloc, according to preliminary results. It was their worst score since 1949.

Its nearest rivals, the Social Democrats and their candidate Martin Schulz, came in a distant second, with a post-war record low of 21 per cent.

BOMBSHELL

But in a bombshell for the German establishment, the anti-Islam, anti-immigration Alternative for Germany (AfD) captured around 13 percent, catapulting it to become the country’s third biggest political force.

Commentators called the AfD’s strong performance a “watershed moment” in the history of the German republic. The top-selling Bild daily spoke of a “political earthquake”.

AfD supporters gathered at a Berlin club, cheering as public television reported the outcome, many joining in a chorus of the German national anthem.

Hundreds of protesters rallied outside, shouting “Nazis out!” while smaller AfD demonstrations were held in other cities across the country.

The four-year-old nationalist party with links to the far-right French National Front and Britain’s UKIP has been shunned by Germany’s mainstream but was able to build on particularly strong support in ex-communist eastern Germany.

BUNDESTAG

It is now headed for the opposition benches of the Bundestag lower house, dramatically boosting its visibility and state financing.

Alarmed by the prospect of what Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel branded “real Nazis” entering parliament, the candidates had used their final days of campaigning to implore voters to reject the populists.

Turnout was markedly higher than four years ago, up to around 76 per cent from 71.5 per cent.

French President Emmanuel Macron was among the first to congratulate Merkel, promising that the two key European partners would keep up their “essential cooperation”.

Merkel admitted that she had fallen far short of the 40-per cent goal her party set.

“There’s a big new challenge for us, and that is the entry of the AfD in the Bundestag,” said Merkel, adding: “We want to win back AfD voters.”

RULING MAJORITY

Germans elected a splintered parliament, reflecting a nation torn between a relatively high degree of satisfaction with Merkel and a desire for change after more than a decade of her leadership.

Another three parties cleared the five-percent hurdle to be represented in parliament: the liberal Free Democrats at around 10 per cent and the anti-capitalist Left and ecologist Greens, both at about nine per cent.

As Merkel failed to secure a ruling majority on her own and with the dejected SPD ruling out another right-left “grand coalition” with her, the process of forming a viable government was shaping up to be a thorny, months-long process.

Merkel, 63, often called the most powerful woman on the global stage, ran on her record as a steady pair of hands in a turbulent world, warning voters not to indulge in “experiments”.

MIGRANTS

Pundits said Merkel’s reassuring message of stability and prosperity resonated in greying Germany, where more than half of the 61 million voters are aged 52 or older.

Her popularity had largely recovered from the influx since 2015 of more than one million mostly Muslim migrants and refugees, half of them from war-torn Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan.

But the AfD was able to capitalise on anger over the asylum issue during what was criticised as a largely lacklustre campaign bereft of real clashes among the main contenders.

The party has made breaking taboos its trademark.

Top AfD candidate Alexander Gauland has called for Germans to shed their guilt over two world wars and the Holocaust and to take pride in their veterans.

He has also suggested that Germany’s integration commissioner Aydan Ozoguz, who has Turkish roots, should be “disposed of in Anatolia”.

DEMOCRACY

The SPD said its catastrophic result would lead it to seek a stint in opposition to rekindle its fighting spirit.

“This is a difficult and bitter day for German social democracy,” a grim-faced Schulz, a former European Parliament chief, told reporters, adding that he hoped to remain party leader.

This would leave Merkel in need of new coalition partners.

If the SPD sticks to its refusal to play ball, mathematically the most likely scenario would be a link-up with the pro-business Free Democrats, who staged a comeback after crashing out of parliament four years ago, and the left-leaning Greens.

EMPLOYMENT

That so-called “Jamaica” coalition, based on the party colours and the Caribbean nation’s flag, would be a risky proposition, given the differences between the parties on issues ranging from climate policy to migration issues.

Schulz, 61, struggled to gain traction with his calls for a more socially just Germany at a time when the economy is humming and employment is at a record low.

Meanwhile Merkel faced accusations from within her conservative camp that she had left its “right flank exposed” to the AfD’s challenge with her centrist stance on issues such as border policy.

“This is competition for the Union and the conservative spectrum in general,” said political scientist Lothar Probst of the University of Bremen of the AfD.

“A very difficult period is beginning for the chancellor.”

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At Least 13 Dead in Vehicular Terrorism Attack in Barcelona

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A van crashed into dozens of people in Barcelona in what police are treating as a terrorist attack. After conflicting reports of the number of people killed, a Spanish government official confirmed 13 people were dead and 50 were injured.
Videos on social media show what appear to be several serious injuries after the crash on Las Ramblas, a popular shopping and tourist destination in the city center. The driver reportedly fled after the crash. Police have told people in the area to stay inside. Sky News and Reuters had earlier cited local TV networks reporting that two armed men entered a nearby restaurant and took hostages. However, Catalan police now say there are no hostages or suspects holed up in a restaurant. Police have also confirmed at least one arrest.

Cars have been used in a number of deadly terrorist attacks in Europe since last year in cities including Nice, Berlin, London, and Stockholm. This latest incident also comes just a few days after a protester was killed in a car attack in Charlottesville, Virginia.

Today’s attack is likely to be the worst terrorist incident in Spain since the 2004 Madrid train bombings that killed nearly 200 people. The clumsy response to that attack—authorities initially tried to blame the jihadi attack on the militant Basque separatist group ETA—resulted in the electoral defeat of Spain’s conservative government several days later and the withdrawal of Spanish troops from Iraq.

Spain hasn’t seen any attacks carried out by members of ISIS—who are responsible for most of the worst recent incidents throughout Europe. But in April, police in Catalonia—Barcelona’s region—arrested nine alleged ISIS supporters suspected of links to the 2016 Brussels airport attack.

Spain has a long history of political violence, much of it linked to ETA, which was involved in more than 800 killings over a 40-year armed conflict. ETA says it has ended its armed campaign and handed over its weapons to authorities this year, though, there are some doubts about whether it has given up entirely.

Catalonia also has an active separatist movement, though an almost entirely peaceful one. The region is gearing up for a controversial planned independence referendum this fall, which the government in Madrid has declared illegal and pledged not to recognize.

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