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French police have killed a man after a synagogue was set on fire in Rouen, a city in north-western France. The man, armed with a knife and a metallic tool, was shot after he threatened officers, as confirmed by the Rouen prosecutor.

Rouen Mayor Nicolas Mayer-Rossignol expressed that the attack not only affected the Jewish community but left the entire city “battered and in shock.” French reports identified the suspect as an Algerian who was appealing against an expulsion order from France.

The incident occurred around 06:45 (04:45 GMT) when smoke was seen rising from the synagogue. The attacker used a petrol bomb to ignite the synagogue. Police officers quickly arrived on the scene after the suspect was spotted on security cameras. The suspect, who was on the roof of the synagogue, threatened the officers and threw a chisel at them before descending and brandishing a knife. One officer then fired five shots, hitting the suspect four times, according to Rouen public prosecutor Frédéric Teillet.

Firefighters managed to control the fire, but significant damage was reported inside the synagogue. Natacha Benhaïm, head of Rouen’s Jewish community, described the damage as catastrophic, though the Torah books remained unharmed.

Investigations are underway into the arson attack and the use of a police weapon. Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin commended the police for their prompt and brave response. The suspect, a 29-year-old Algerian, carried no identification at the time of the attack.

This incident follows a rise in antisemitism in France since Hamas’ attack on southern Israel in October, leading to the current war in Gaza. Recent antisemitic acts include defacing a Paris memorial honoring those who rescued Jews during World War Two. President Emmanuel Macron condemned the defacement, emphasizing the importance of remembering France’s heroes and Holocaust victims.

France, home to the third largest Jewish community globally, has seen various attacks on places of worship, including the fatal stabbing of a priest during a church service eight years ago. The recent violence in Rouen also comes shortly after an ambush that resulted in the deaths of two prison officers south of the city.

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A 71-year-old man from Levice has been implicated in the attempted murder of Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico, who was severely injured in a shooting incident. The suspect, though not officially named, has been widely identified by Slovak reports. If convicted, he could potentially face life imprisonment.

The assailant acted alone, according to Interior Minister Matus Sutaj Estok, who stated that the suspect had participated in anti-government protests and was discontented with the outcome of the recent presidential election, won by Peter Pellegrini, an ally of Fico.

In the brazen daylight attack, Fico was shot five times at close range, sustaining serious injuries to his stomach and arm. His security detail was caught off guard, and Fico was swiftly taken to a hospital for emergency treatment. Despite the severity of his condition, Fico’s status has stabilized, though he remains in intensive care.

The alleged perpetrator is described as a writer and political activist, with a circulated video purportedly featuring him expressing grievances against the government’s policies, particularly regarding state media. However, the authenticity of the video and its connection to the detained suspect remain unverified.

The shooting has been condemned by Slovak politicians as an assault on democracy, prompting calls for unity and calm. Outgoing President Zuzana Caputova urged political leaders to convene and address the escalating tensions, while President-elect Peter Pellegrini called for a suspension of campaigning ahead of European Parliament elections.

The attack occurred amid parliamentary discussions concerning the government’s proposal to dissolve Slovakia’s public broadcaster RTVS, a move that has sparked widespread public protests in recent weeks. Some officials have attributed the shooting to heightened political rhetoric and hostility perpetuated by both media and opposition parties.

In response to the incident, Deputy Prime Minister Taraba and Interior Minister Estok criticized the opposition and media for allegedly fueling animosity, with concerns raised about the safety of journalists and NGOs in Slovakia.

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Hazel Behan, a woman who claims to have been raped by the man suspected of Madeleine McCann’s murder, gave chilling testimony in court. She recounted feeling an indescribable fear when awakened by a masked intruder. Christian Brückner, the prime suspect, denies involvement in both cases. The trial in Braunschweig, Lower Saxony, focuses on unrelated sex offense charges against Brückner, alleged to have occurred in Portugal between 2000 and 2017.

Behan, a former holiday rep in Praia de Rocha, vividly described the night of the assault in June 2004. She walked home alone after an argument with her boyfriend and was attacked in her apartment. The assailant, dressed entirely in black and armed with a knife, subjected her to a prolonged ordeal, including rape and filming parts of the assault. Behan endured physical and emotional trauma, and despite years passing, she still suffers from panic attacks and requires medication.

The trial also highlighted Behan’s disappointment with the Portuguese police’s handling of her case. She recalled feeling neglected and mistreated during the investigation. Years later, upon seeing Brückner’s photo in a news article, Behan recognized him and decided to come forward, linking her assault to his previous convictions.

Behan emphasized the profound impact the attack had on her life, stating that she no longer feels like the carefree person she was before. Brückner’s defense team maintains skepticism about the case’s foundation and is challenging the charges.

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Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico underwent surgery after sustaining multiple gunshot wounds during an attack in Handlova. Initially in critical condition, his health has since stabilized. The incident, deemed politically motivated, has drawn widespread condemnation and raised concerns about democratic stability. Despite the suspect’s detention, the motive behind the shooting remains uncertain.

Deputy Prime Minister Tomas Taraba suggested that false narratives propagated by opposition parties may have fueled the attack, echoing previous concerns expressed by Fico about the potential consequences of such rhetoric. The shooting underscores simmering political tensions within Slovakia, sparking debates about the role of inflammatory discourse in shaping the country’s political climate.

The incident has ignited discussions about the broader implications of divisive language in Slovakian society. President Zuzana Caputova highlighted the serious ramifications of such rhetoric, emphasizing its potential to incite violence. The shooting serves as a stark reminder of the dangers posed by polarizing narratives and underscores the need for constructive dialogue and unity in the face of political differences.

Fico, known for his controversial policies, including calls to end military aid to Ukraine and efforts to abolish the public broadcaster RTVS, has faced significant opposition both domestically and within the EU since returning to power. The attack on him amplifies existing concerns about political stability and underscores the challenges facing Slovakian democracy in navigating polarized political landscapes.

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New Caledonia, a Pacific territory under French governance since the 19th century, is currently gripped by violent unrest stemming from the French parliament’s decision to expand voting rights for French residents there. This move, allowing long-term French citizens in New Caledonia to participate in provincial elections, has sparked outrage among many locals who perceive it as marginalizing the indigenous Kanak people and undermining their political representation.

The escalation of protests into riots has resulted in fatalities, numerous injuries, and widespread property damage, marking the most severe unrest the territory has experienced since the 1980s. In response, French President Emmanuel Macron canceled a planned trip and convened an emergency meeting to address the crisis. The situation prompted authorities to impose a curfew and ban public gatherings in an attempt to restore order.

Despite efforts to quell the violence, tensions remain high, with continued clashes between protesters and law enforcement. The unrest has led to a significant number of arrests and calls from both local and national leaders for calm and de-escalation. The situation underscores the complex political dynamics in New Caledonia, where issues of autonomy, indigenous rights, and French governance intersect, fueling longstanding grievances and tensions within the community.

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In Normandy, a vast manhunt is underway for Mohamed Amra, known as “The Fly,” who managed to escape from a police van in a shocking incident. The escape occurred while he was being transported back from a court hearing in Rouen. During the journey, the police van was forcibly stopped at a toll booth by a car collision. Following the collision, armed individuals attacked the van, resulting in the tragic death of two prison officers.

French authorities, led by President Emmanuel Macron and Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin, have mobilized significant resources to track down the perpetrators and capture Amra. The intensity of the search reflects the gravity of the incident and the determination to bring those responsible to justice.

Amra’s criminal background adds complexity to the situation. Recently convicted of burglary, he also faces charges related to a kidnapping case that resulted in a fatality. Despite his lawyer’s claims of ignorance regarding any escape plan, reports suggest Amra’s involvement in prior escape attempts.

Amra’s criminal history dates back to his teenage years, with ties to a gang in Marseille, although his record does not include convictions for drug-related offenses. The unfolding events have raised concerns about public safety and the effectiveness of security measures surrounding high-risk prisoners like Amra.

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A court in Austria has ruled that Josef Fritzl, infamous for imprisoning his daughter for 24 years and fathering seven children with her in a dungeon beneath his home, can be transferred to a regular prison. The court in Krems an der Donau cited Fritzl’s advancing age, progressive dementia, and physical frailty as reasons why he no longer posed a serious danger requiring him to be held in a psychiatric unit within the prison system.

While this decision theoretically opens the possibility of eventual release, the court emphasized that due to Fritzl’s unprecedented criminal history and the severity of his actions, both release and conditional release are highly unlikely for “special preventative reasons.” Fritzl’s lawyer has indicated plans to apply for his release a year after the transfer, but the court’s statement suggests that such a step is improbable.

The Fritzl case, which shocked Austria when it came to light in 2008, involved Fritzl imprisoning his daughter Elisabeth in a cellar in 1984, where he repeatedly raped her and fathered seven children with her. Three of the children were confined in the cellar with Elisabeth, while the others lived upstairs with Fritzl’s unsuspecting wife. The case was discovered when one of the children became seriously ill and had to be taken to the hospital.

Fritzl initially denied the charges of murder and enslavement but later changed his plea after watching his daughter’s videotaped testimony in court. Elisabeth and her children have since been given new identities.

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Georgia’s parliament is on the verge of passing a highly controversial “foreign agent” law, despite facing significant opposition from both within and outside the ruling Georgian Dream party. Critics of the proposed legislation, often referred to as the “Russia law,” argue that it poses a severe threat to civil liberties within the country.

The bill has sparked weeks of mass protests, with thousands of people gathering near the parliament building to voice their opposition. Protesters fear that if the law is enacted, it could be exploited by the government to suppress dissenting voices and undermine Georgia’s aspirations to join the European Union.

Prime Minister Irakli Kobakhidze has remained steadfast in his support for the bill, vowing that it will pass despite the ongoing protests. He has issued warnings about the consequences of not implementing the law, drawing parallels to the situation in Ukraine without providing specific details.

President Salome Zurabishvili, although an opponent of Kobakhidze, has expressed her intention to veto the law. However, Georgian Dream holds sufficient parliamentary support to override her veto, indicating that the bill is likely to be approved.

The proposed legislation would require NGOs and independent media outlets that receive more than 20% of their funding from foreign sources to register as organizations with foreign interests. They would be subject to government monitoring and could face significant fines if they fail to comply with the regulations outlined in the law. Critics argue that this would create a chilling effect on freedom of expression and civil society in Georgia.

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The Kremlin has announced the removal of long-time ally Sergei Shoigu from his position as defense minister, replacing him with Deputy Prime Minister Andrei Belousov, who lacks significant military experience. Shoigu will be appointed secretary of Russia’s Security Council. This move, a rare reshuffle in Russian politics, is seen as reflecting President Putin’s decision-making authority, particularly regarding the conflict in Ukraine.

Belousov’s appointment surprises many due to his background as an economist. However, analysts suggest this decision aligns with Putin’s aim to integrate the Russian economy more closely with military efforts. Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov emphasized the need for innovation in the defense ministry, comparing Russia’s situation to the mid-1980s Soviet Union when a large portion of GDP was allocated to military spending.

The decision to appoint a civilian to such a significant military role underscores the changing priorities within the Kremlin and the necessity to improve efficiency in the armed forces amid ongoing conflicts. Recent events, including the arrest of one of Shoigu’s deputies on corruption charges and prolonged military engagement in Ukraine, likely contributed to speculation about Shoigu’s weakening position.

While Shoigu will retain influence as secretary of the Security Council, his reassignment may be interpreted as a demotion. The future of Nikolai Patrushev, the council’s current head, remains uncertain. Shoigu, who has a civil engineering background, gained prominence in the 1990s as head of the emergencies and disaster relief ministry.

Belousov, described as a staunch defender of the state who believes Russia faces numerous external threats, shares a close relationship with Putin and the Russian Orthodox Church. He has practiced martial arts, including karate and sambo, and previously served as an aide to Putin. His support for the annexation of Crimea in 2014 aligns with Putin’s policies.

Putin’s recent reelection for a fifth term with an overwhelming majority solidifies his leadership position in Russia, which he has held since 2000.

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The recent regional election in Catalonia marked a significant shift in the political landscape, with the Socialists, led by Salvador Illa, emerging victorious with 42 seats. This success contrasted with a drop in support for independence to 42%, down from 49% in 2017, signaling a setback for pro-independence parties.

Despite the Socialist victory, forming a government may prove challenging, as coalition negotiations are necessary. The fragmented nature of the Catalan parliament, divided by unionist-separatist allegiances and left-right divisions, is likely to prolong post-election discussions.

The amnesty law, a contentious issue benefiting nationalists and championed by Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez’s government, played a pivotal role in securing support. However, it has faced criticism, particularly from opponents on the right, for its perceived leniency towards separatist activities.

Calls for unity among pro-independence parties have emerged, but the complexity of the political landscape suggests that negotiations will be intricate. Despite former regional president Carles Puigdemont’s suggestion for a coalition between pro-independence parties, the path to forming a government remains uncertain.

Additionally, the election saw gains for the conservative People’s Party and the far-right Vox, while the centrist Ciudadanos lost all representation in the parliament. A new far-right party, Catalan Alliance, also secured two seats, further diversifying the political spectrum in Catalonia.

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