- The Washington Times - Friday, July 19, 2002

PARIS The Bastille Day assassination attempt against President Jacques Chirac has authorities suddenly taking seriously the country's neo-fascist groups, which had once been considered harmless assemblies of deranged youths.
They shout Nazi-era slogans, demand war against immigrants and Jews and claim to fight for a new world order on the ruins of a "decadent society without soul."
"The danger of these extreme groups is not their strength, but the possibility that their message could incite others to violence," said one police official.
The reputed perpetrator of the abortive attack, Maxime Brunerie, 25, has been involved with several fringe neo-Nazi groups that say they fight a target identified as "ZOG." The term, originally an acronym for "Zionist Occupation Government," has come to mean generally any "threat to the white race," in neo-Nazi jargon.
The French president is considered that target.
The authorities are especially concerned by a message posted by Mr. Brunerie's associates on the Internet "Continuons le combat," or "let us continue the struggle" shortly after he was overpowered and whisked to a high-security psychiatric hospital.
German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, whose country harbors some of Europe's most extreme neo-Nazis, promptly decried the attack and said, "We must take this danger seriously."
Although law and order were the chief concern of French voters in the recent presidential and legislative elections, few believed that the life of the president was at stake.
It was the first attack on a French head of state since 1963, when the terrorist Secret Army Organization (OAS) attempted to kill Charles de Gaulle for giving Algeria its independence.
Last Sunday's attack on Mr. Chirac raised questions about the adequacy of the president's security and the advisability of his public appearances.
Mr. Chirac is the leading proponent of increased security.
Under the program adopted by the new Cabinet, the police force will be increased by 13,000 members and judicial personnel by 10,000 over the next five years.
In the days following Sunday's attempt on Mr. Chirac's life, authorities eliminated the possibility of any significant plot and asserted that Mr. Brunerie acted alone.
A police analysis indicated the extreme right was divided into two main groups: a neo-Nazi movement thriving on lingering slogans and Adolf Hitler's panache, and a less political but fractured body of disoriented skinheads in search of a cause.
The French neo-Nazis hold meetings surrounded by World War II paraphernalia, shout pro-Hitler slogans and celebrate various anniversaries of the Third Reich.
They have links with the European Liberation Front operating in Britain, Germany, Italy and Spain, claiming to form a "brown international," named after the Nazi brownshirts.
The less political groups include Nationalist Revolutionaries, who recruit members in schools and universities, the New Resistance and the Green Resistance.


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