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Man shot dead in Avignon after threatening public with weapon

Zoe Tidman and Lizzie Dearden
·3-min read
<p>A man has been shot dead in France after brandishing a weapon at passersby</p> (Getty Images/iStockphoto)

A man has been shot dead in France after brandishing a weapon at passersby

(Getty Images/iStockphoto)

A man has been shot dead by police after threatening people with a handgun in a city in southern France.

The man was shot dead in Montfavet, a district in the city of Avignon, on Thursday, police said.

A police official told The Independent the attacker said he was from the far-right Mouvance Identitaire.

He was killed after he refused to drop his weapon and a flash-ball shot failed to stop him, a police official told The Associated Press.

French media reports had initially suggested he had shouted “Allahu akbar”, suggesting it was an Islamist attack.

Le Figaro newspaper quoted a prosecution source as saying the man was undergoing psychiatric treatment, and that they did not believe there was a Islamist terrorism motive.

The man appeared to be wearing a jacket displaying a “Defend Europe” logo, which refers to a string of anti-refugee operations by the Generation Identity group.

The pan-Europe white nationalist network, which is called Génération identitaire in France, spreads a conspiracy claiming that white people are being “replaced” and calls for the “remigration” of Muslims from the continent.

The Christchurch attacker, who massacred 51 victims at mosques in New Zealand last year, used the name of Generation Identity’s core ideology as the title of his manifesto.

It later emerged that he had donated money to the group and exchanged friendly emails with Austrian leader Martin Sellner.

On Thursday, Sellner posted a photo of the Avignon attacker’s body on his channel on the encrypted messaging service Telegram.

“People are now claiming that he is ‘part of the Identitarian Movement’,” Sellner wrote. “He was wearing a jacket from the [Generation Identity] shop that was freely available online.”

Sellner, who was banned from entering the UK on security grounds in 2018, suggested the man was mentally ill and “incoherent”.

Senior members of Generation Identity’s French branch were jailed last year over parts of Defend Europe mission, and authorities have previously considered a ban on the group.

On the same day as the gunman was shot dead in Avignon, a man was arrested after attacking and injuring a guard at the French consulate in Jeddah, in Saudi Arabia.

Also on Thursday, three people were killed in a church in Nice, whose mayor has described the knife attack as terrorism. Their throats were cut and one other person was injured, a police spokesperson told The Independent.

The French prime minister said the country's threat level would be raised to its maximum following the Nice attack, and the anti-terrorist prosecutor's department said it had been asked to investigate.

Thursday’s attacks come just two weeks after the killing of French teacher Samuel Paty, who was beheaded outside a school near Paris.

<p>Three people died on Thursday in an attack on a Nice church</p>REUTERS

Three people died on Thursday in an attack on a Nice church

REUTERS

Mr Paty was targeted because he had shown students Charlie Hebdo cartoons depicting the Prophet Muhammad during a class on free expression.

The Afghan Taliban released a statement on Sunday attacking Emmanuel Macron’s response to the murder of Mr Paty.

The terrorist group accused the French president of making “irresponsible remarks against Islam” and “assuming a stance that threatens international peace and inflames enmity and animosity among nations”.

Additional reporting by agencies

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