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Neo-Nazi Fires Rifle During France's Bastille Day Parade - 2002-07-14

Police in Paris say a young neo-Nazi fired a rifle shot during France's Bastille Day parade just as President Jacques Chirac drove by in an open-topped vehicle. The gunman was quickly subdued and led away by police.

Police have identified the gunman as 25-year-old Maxime Brunerie. They say he belongs to neo-Nazi and hooligan groups. French television reports he is a member of a far-right student movement and has links to skinhead groups. One television channel (France 2) reports Mr. Brunerie has a history of emotional problems.

The gunman was standing in the crowd at Paris' Arc de Triomphe when he pulled a .22 caliber rifle out of a guitar case and, according to eyewitnesses, fired one shot before being overpowered by police and led away.

A junior government minister, Patrick Devedjian, says Mr. Brunerie tried to commit suicide by turning the gun on himself as police wrestled him to the ground. Mr. Devedjian calls the incident an assassination attempt.

It is not known whether Mr. Chirac was aware of the gunman's actions or heard the shot. In a traditional Bastille Day television interview after the parade, he did not mention the incident, nor was he asked about it.

Eyewitnesses at the scene said the gunman produced his rifle as the president was being driven around the Arc de Triomphe. They said the man fired a shot just as police pounced on him, wrestled him to the ground and handcuffed him.

Mr. Brunerie's motives for attacking the president are still unclear. Mr. Chirac overwhelmingly defeated far-right candidate Jean-Marie Le Pen in the second round of presidential elections last May and won a second term in office.