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Left-wing activist left brain-dead in clash with skinheads
BRUSSELS, Belgium — The French government is promising harsh measures against extreme-right groups after a teenage left-wing activist was killed after being beaten during a clash with skinheads in downtown Paris.
"These groups that have long created disorder must be suppressed," President Francois Hollande said.
The attack on 18-year-old Clement Meric has added to fears of mounting right-wing violence in France and other parts of Europe. French campaign groups have noted an increase in attacks against ethnic minorities, gays and left-wingers.
Extremist groups on the margin of a mass movement that unsuccessfully campaigned against the legalization gay marriage by Hollande's government have frequently fought with police and been blamed for targeting gays and Socialist politicians.
Assaults blamed on neo-Nazis have become common in crisis-hit Greece.
In London, a mosque was burned down in a suspected arson attack on Wednesday. Police said they found graffiti relating to a far-right group called the English Defense League scrawled on the burned out building. The fire comes after several attacks on mosques raised fears of a backlash against Muslims in response to the murder of a soldier in London last month.
Meric was a member of a far-left group called Action AntiFascist. Members were reportedly involved in a verbal altercation with a four members of a right-wing group called the Nationalist Revolutionary Youth (JNR) at a private clothes sale on Wednesday afternoon.
As they left the sale, a fight broke out in the street in fashionable shopping district near the Paris Opera house. According to one witness, the individual who threw the fatal blow at Meric was wearing brass knuckles.
Four people have been detained in connection with the crime, including a 20-year-old suspected of the killing.
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Government leaders said they would move to eradicate violent neo-Nazi groups.
Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault said the government would "explore all the possibilities, democratically and on the basis of the law to cut to pieces all these Nazi and Fascist-inspired movements that are damaging the Republic."
The leader of the JNR — a small ultra-nationalist group — claimed his supporters were attacked first. Marine Le Pen, leader of France's leading far-right group, the National Front, denounced killing as "horrifying" and said her party was in no way involved.