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French Writer Commits Suicide at Notre Dame in Paris

French policemen cordon off in front of Paris' Notre Dame Cathedral following the evacuation of the after a man shot himself dead in front of the altar, May 22, 2013.
Authorities in Paris say a far-right French writer and activist has committed suicide in front of the altar in the city's famed Notre Dame Cathedral.

Officials say 1,500 visitors were in the cathedral Tuesday when 78-year-old Dominique Venner shot himself in the head after placing a letter on the cathedral's altar.

The contents of the letter were not immediately clear. However, recent posts on his blog included rants about France's recently passed same-sex marriage legislation and African immigration.

Venner was a soldier during France's war in Algeria and was a member of the Secret Armed Organization , a paramilitary group that opposed Algeria's independence from France.

The Gothic Notre Dame Cathedral, on an islet on the River Seine, is one of the most visited sites in Paris, attracting more than 13 million visitors a year. It is celebrating its 850th anniversary.