Paris knife attacker was known to counter-terrorism police

Khamzat Azimov, who struck in busy theatre district of French capital on Saturday night, had been flagged as a security risk

French officials said the knife-wielding attacker who killed a passerby and injured four others in Paris on Saturday evening had been previously been flagged as a possible security danger and interviewed by counter-terrorist police.

The attacker, named as Khamzat Azimov, 20, struck in one of the most popular areas of the city, near the celebrated opera house and theatres, before before being shot dead by police in Paris.

Police said he was previously interviewed because of his contacts , not his behaviour, and they insisted he had shown no signs of extremism in his everyday life or on social media.

Azimov, was listed as a person susceptible to Islamic radicalisation, but” more for the company he keeps than for his own behaviour, his actions or his opinions”, according to a report in Le Figaro.

French police took the man’s parents into custody on Sunday for questioning about his links to jihadists in Syria and searched the family home in the 18 th arrondissement in the north of Paris. One of Azimov’s friends from Strasbourg, where he grew up, was also reportedly detained for questioning.

Azimov struck at random in the busy region of restaurants and theatres near Paris’s Opera Garnier in the city’s second arrondissement, at about 8.50 pm local time.

Witnesses told Azimov, who was born in Chechnya, but procured French nationality in 2010 when his mother was naturalised, arrived at the scene of the attack by metro. He was dressed in black, and carrying a knife.

Police were quick to arrive at the scene as he strolled along rue Monsigny, a one-way street, apparently looking for victims. Panicked diners fled terraces or took refuge under tables inside restaurants.

Officers, praised for their sangfroid, reportedly tried to halt him with a stun-gun, but when he continued to threaten them shot him dead.

Witnesses told Azimov screamed:” Go ahead. Shoot. I’m going to get you .”

French police at the site of the knife attack near Opera Garnier in Paris. Photograph: Xinhua/ Rex/ Shutterstock

In the moments before, he stabbed to demise a 29 -year-old man walking in the street and injured four others. Two of the injured were said to be in a serious, but not life-threatening, condition in hospital.

Several witnesses claimed the attacker wept “Allahu Akbar” as he lunged at people. This was confirmed by the public prosecutor, Francois Molins. Isis has claimed responsibility for the attack.

Born in the Caucuses, Azimov’s family came to France in the early 2000 s and moved to Nice before settling on a housing estate at Elsau, in the eastern French city of Strasbourg, home to a large number of Chechen migrants. The family’s request for refugee status was initially refused; on appeal it was finally approved by the National Court for the Right to Asylum in 2004. Azimov’s father was refused French nationality after separating from the boy’s mother. Le Monde said the couple had since reunited and moved to a new home in the north of Paris.

Although he had never been in trouble with the police or the authorities and had no criminal record, he had come to the attention of French security services because of his contacts with a group of young people wanting to travel to Syria.

Azimov, who was not carrying identity papers, had been interviewed by counter-terrorism policemen a year ago after it was discovered he was friends with a human whose wife had travelled to Syria. He had been on the Fiche-S list of people considered a potential security danger since 2016 but was considered a suiveur ( follower ), or secondary figure, according to anti-terrorist policemen. He had no criminal record.

Up to 20,000- from radical Islamists to hooligans and members of the extreme right or extreme left- people are believed to be on the Fiche S listing and classified according to their potential danger.

In a series of tweets, the French chairperson, Emmanuel Macron, said his thoughts were with the victims of the attack and praised the courage of police who” neutralised the terrorist “.

” France is paying in blood is again, but it will not give one inch to the enemies of liberty ,” he wrote.

The interior minister, Gerard Collomb, hailed the sangfroid and quick reaction of police who shot the attacker.” My first believes are with the victims of this odious act ,” he tweeted.

Another woman who was out with her young son and ensure the knifeman said he seemed determined to assault police officers who had tried to surround and immobilise him.

” Police surrounded him and I truly thought that would stop him, but not at all. He literally jumped at the police. He was so determined ,” she told BFM TV.

She added:” He was small, slim, longish hair, like all the fashionable young, a three-day beard. He did not stand out. He was garmented ordinarily. Never in my life would I have thought he was going to attack .”

A forensic policeman and a police officer stand next to a numbered reference index pad and a camera on a tripod near the site of the crime in Paris. Photo: Geoffroy van der Hasselt/ AFP/ Getty Images

A waiter on duty near the opera house, named merely as Jonathan, described the attack, which happened in front of his restaurant.

” The attacker was walking in the street, armed with a knife. He had a lot of blood on his hands. He was strolling in the road and stopping at all the shops. He was threatening everyone who crossed his track .”

He added:” He threatened a woman and her companion came to defend her and was threatened as well. Then he moved on to the next restaurant and assaulted it. I wasn’t especially worried, I was under the impression he was mad or medication up .”

On Sunday, while Macron and his wife Brigitte were taking a bank-holiday break at Fort de Bregancon in the south of France, Collomb held an hour-long emergency security meeting with representatives from the security services, police and advisers at the interior ministry.

France’s anti-terrorist brigade was investigating the attack and the prosecutor has opened an inquiry into slaying linked to a terrorist organisation.

Make sure to visit:


Paris knifeman shot dead after killing one and injuring four

Police confirm attacker has been killed as French president praises policemen courage

A knifeman killed one person and injured four others, one of them critically, before being shot dead by police in Paris.

The attacker struck in one of the most popular areas of the city, near the celebrated opera house and theatres.

Pierre Gaudin, a spokesman for the police prefecture, said the man attacked shortly before 9pm.

” One person has died of their traumata ,” Gaudin said, adding that two others had been seriously injured and taken to hospital.

The knifeman, dressed solely in black, lunged at people at random exclaiming” Allahu Akbar”, according to witnesses. This was confirmed by public prosecutor Francois Molins.

He was carrying no identity newspapers, stimulating it harder for police to identify him. Yvan Assiona, a spokesman for the police union Alliance described the attacker as” bearded, with long hair “.

An investigation has been opened into a suspected terrorist attack and Molins is expected to give more details at a press conference on Sunday.

However, French media reported on Sunday that the attacker had been identified. He was from Chechnya and was born in 1997. His parents have been taken into custody.

Isis has reportedly claimed responsibility for the attack.

In a series of tweets, the French president, Emmanuel Macron, said his thoughts were with the victims of the attack and praised the “courage” of police who” neutralised the terrorist “.

” France is paying in blood is again, but it will not give one inch to the adversaries of liberty ,” he wrote.

The interior minister, Gerard Collomb, hailed the “sangfroid” and quick response of police who shot the attacker.

” My first thoughts are with the victims of this odious act ,” he tweeted.

A waiter on duty near the opera house, named merely as Jonathan, described the attack, which happened in front of his restaurant.

” The attacker was strolling in the street, armed with a knife. He had a lot of blood on his hands. He was walking in the road and stopping at all the shops. He was threatening everyone who crossed his route .”

He added:” He threatened a woman and her companion came to defend her and was threatened as well. Then he moved on to the next restaurant and assaulted it. I wasn’t particularly worried, I was under the impression he was mad or drugged up .”

Make sure to visit:

Lost in translation: Macron thanks Australian PM’s ‘delicious’ wife

French chairmen option of English terms in Sydney situates tongues wagging

Was it a verbal faux pas , or a jeu de mots gone wrong? We will probably never know, but Emmanuel Macron’s choice of English words certainly set Australian tongues wagging.

” I want to thank you for your welcome ,” the French chairman said to the country’s prime minister, Malcolm Turnbull, at the end of a joint press conference in Sydney on Wednesday.” Thank you and your delicious wife for your warm welcome .”

The more charitable among the Australian media present reckoned Macron, who was in Australia for trade and regional security talks before visiting the French province of New Caledonia, was already thinking of his lunch.

Turnbull had just observed that the president had to rush off for a dinner with the French community in Sydney.” Yes, for French gastronomy, for the French winery ,” Macron responded, moving on to describe his host’s wife too as “delicious”.

Others said the French chairwoman, who prides himself on speaking fluent- though not flawless- English, might have fallen pollute of a faux ami, the French term for a word that voices similar in another language but carries a different meaning.

The French term delicieux, while often employed for the savor of food, would be better translated as “lovely” or “delightful” when used to describe a person.

Play Video

Donald Trump tells Brigitte Macron she’s ‘in good shape’ – video

Still others guessed Macron may have been attempting an albeit slightly obscure gag referencing Donald Trump’s visit to Paris last year, when the US president was caught on camera telling his host’s spouse, Brigitte, that she was ” in such great shape … beautiful “.

Whatever the explain, Macron’s English is an improvement on that of his predecessors. “I’m sorry for the time,” Nicolas Sarkozy once said to Hillary Clinton. That is one meaning of the word temps , but he meant another – the climate.

Francois Hollande also came in for criticism after he signed a letter of congratulation to Barack Obama following his 2008 election with the words:” Friendly, Francois Hollande “. That was a direct translation of amicalement , meaning” warm considers “.

But faux amis can also run the other way. The former British prime minister Tony Blair, who speaks pretty good French, was once caught out when he tried to say,” I envy you” to his French equivalent, Lionel Jospin.

Instead of “ Je vous envie “, he said: “ J’ai envie de vous “-” I want you .”

Make sure to visit:

‘Catastrophe’: French museum discovers half of its collection are fakes

The mayor has described it as a catastrophe for the town in the South of France and vowed to catch the forgers

An art museum in the south of France has discovered that more than half of its collection consists of fakes, in what the local mayor on Sunday described as a “catastrophe” for the region.

The tiny 8,000 -strong community of Elne just outside Perpignan re-opened its Etienne Terrus Museum, dedicated to the works of the local artist who was born in 1857 and been killed in 1922, on Friday after extensive redevelopment work.

But an art historian brought in to reorganise the museum following the recent acquisition of around 80 paints, found that virtually 60% of the entire collect was fake.

” Etienne Terrus was Elne’s great painter. He was part of the community, he was our painter ,” said mayor Yves Barniol.

” Knowing that people have visited the museum and ensure a collection, most of which is fake, that’s bad. It’s a catastrophe for local municipalities .”

Eric Forcada, the art historian who uncovered the forgeries, said that he had watched straight away that most of the works were fake.

” On one painting, the ink signature was wiped away when I passed my white glove over it .”

He alerted the region’s cultural attache and requested a session of a panel experts to confirm his findings.

” At a stylistic level, it’s crude. The cotton supports do not match the canvas used by Terrus. And there are some anachronisms ,” Forcada said.

In all, out of the 140 runs that make up the collecting, 82 were fake.

Elne’s mayor Barniol insisted that the investigation would be continued until the perpetrators had been find.

” We’re not giving up ,” he said.

Forcada said that prior to the opening of the scandal, paintings by Terrus could fetch up to 15,000 euros ($ 18,200) and draws and watercolours would sell for up to 2,000 euros.

Make sure to visit:

Macron begins Trump charm offensive with Fox News interview

French leader set for state visit to Washington from Monday, seeking to stop US withdrawals from Syria and Iran nuclear deal

Touting” a very strong personal relation” with Donald Trump, the French chairman, Emmanuel Macron, on Sunday began an ambitious charm offensive intended to strengthen US commitments in Syria and Iran while heading off menaces of a transatlantic trade war.

Prior to his departure for an official country visit to Washington, Macron likened himself to Trump in an interview with Fox News Sunday, a venue with a wide following among Trump advocates and likely to be watched including the president himself.

” Both of us are probably the maverick of the organizations of the system on both sides ,” Macron told.” I believe President Trump’s election was unexpected in your country and probably my election was unexpected in my country. And we are not part of the classical political system .”

But if his emphasis was on political affinities, Macron faces a substantial challenge to guide his occasionally errant counterpart away from stances popular with his base and, in the case of Syria, at odds with his own recently stated intentions.

” I want to get off, I want to bring the troops back home, I want to start rebuilding our nation ,” Trump said of Syria at the White House earlier this month, before proclaiming the US” mission achieved” with weapon ten-strikes outside Damascus and Homs.

Macron will arrive in the US with the opposite message.” We will have to build a new Syria after war ,” he said.” And that’s why I suppose the US role is very important to play .”

Macron described a similarly ambitious plan to keep the US in the Iran nuclear deal, which the chairman of the Senate foreign relations committee last week predicted Trump would withdraw from in May.

” Is this agreement perfect ?” said Macron.” No. But for nuclear- what do you have? As a better option? I don’t see it .”

Macron has been framed as the best hope for co-opting Trump to European policy priorities, with a recent Der Spiegel cover depicting him standing next to a fiery Trump, holding a fire extinguisher as German chancellor Angela Merkel stands by.

Macron will have an unusually strong opportunity to induce his example in his multi-day country visit. He and Trump are to dine privately on Monday at Mount Vernon, the home of George Washington, before an official White House welcome on Tuesday and an address to a joint session of Congress on Wednesday.

As a gift, Macron will offer Trump an oak sapling taken from Belleau Wood , north-east of Paris, where in June 1918 US Marine repulsed a German offensive with such ferocity that they earned from their beaten enemies the nickname “teufelhunden”, or” Devil Dogs “.

Macron does seem to have outdid other world leaders in establishing a rapport with Trump, whose envy he won when he hosted the US president for a military parade on Bastille Day-” We’re going to have to try to top it ,” Trump told.

Macron told Fox an interminable handshake between the two was not the competition of wills it appeared to be, but a moment of comity.

” It was a very natural moment, I have to say ,” he told.” And a very friendly moment. Don’t worry .”

One of the sharpest splits between Macron and Trump, however, may be over another world leader, Russian chairman Vladimir Putin, who Macron, unlike Trump, has a history of confronting.

” He’s strong and smart ,” Macron said of Putin.” But don’t be naive. He’s preoccupied by interferences in our democracies .”

If the French chairwoman can persuade his American counterpart on that point , no assert of a diplomatic coup might be denied him.

Make sure to visit:

France wants to become an artificial intelligence hub

Emmanuel Macron and his government are launching a big initiative around artificial intelligence today. They want to turn France into one of the leading countries when it comes to artificial intelligence.

“[ Artificial intelligence] is a technological, economical, social and obviously ethical revolution, ” Macron said in a speech. “This revolution won’t happen in 50 or 60 years, it’s happening right now. There are new opportunities and we can choose to follow some innovations or not.”

Some of the best maths and engineering schools are in France, and some of the best data scientists and AI researchers come from France. Many of them now work in California or London for Facebook, Deepmind, etc. And the French government wants to capitalize on that soft power to make an AI push.

And yet, how do you attract technologists and scientists? France’s answer is quite complicated that the government is doesn’t want to inject a ton of public fund and call it a day. It’s all about creating an AI ecosystem with strong pillars.

France’s AI strategy

First, many private companies have opened or plan to open AI research centers in France. Facebook and Google already work with hundreds of researchers in Paris. Today, Samsung, Fujitsu, DeepMind, IBM and Microsoft all announced plans to open offices in France to focus on AI research.

This represents tens of millions of dollars in investments and hundreds of employees. “Everybody is saying that Silicon Valley is overflowing right now, ” a source close to the French President told me. That’s why big tech companies need to find talent outside of the U.S.

Foreign companies creating hundreds of jobs isn’t going to foster public research and European tech giants though — these companies are just tapping the smartest brains they can find. That’s why the French government wants to make it easier to work on fundamental research papers when you work for a private company.

The INRIA is going to create a national AI research program with four or five partners. The aim is quite simple — Macron said that there should be twice as many people studying and researching AI projects in France. Researchers will also be able to access and use some cloud computing capabilities for their work.

It’s also going to get easier if you want to create a startup based on your research work or if you want to work for a private company during your PhD.

Second, France is going to set some new boundaries when it comes to data. French administrations are going to share new data sets so that everyone can build AI services use those data sets.

When it comes to health data, it looks like France wants to avoid another NHS/ DeepMind scandal. While multiple French governments have worked on some kind of health data hub, Macron announced that this time it’s going to happen for real. The INDS is going to make sure that services and public organizations respect your privacy and grant authorizations on a case-by-case basis.

Third, when it comes to regulation, companies will be able to experiment in multiple industries. And it starts with autonomous vehicles. Companies will be able to test level 4 self-driving automobiles in 2019.

Overall, France is going to invest $1.85 billion( EUR1. 5 billion) in AI projects, from public research to startup investments. Last year, Macron announced that there would be a new $11.2 billion( EUR1 0 billion) populace fund managed by Bpifrance. Macron said today that AI startups should be the first priority of this new fund.

Making AI as neutral as possible

Arguably, the most interesting part of Macron’s speech was about the moral impact of artificial intelligence. As algorithms become more prominent, there’s a risk that they become black boxes that choose for you.

The French administration already has to share all its algorithms and data that they use following Axelle Lemaire’s law. But that’s still not the case for some touchy topics. Macron said it’s still a work in progress.

Research projects or companies financed with public fund will also have to share everything — this could impact public infrastructure companies for instance.

But it’s more complicated when you’re talking about private companies. Macron told GDPR was a step in the right direction. And now, he wants to go further.

He doesn’t have any practical suggestion for now, but he said that there should be an international certification authority. For instance, this authority could make sure that there’s no bias in developing data sets. I don’t believe Facebook or Google would enjoy this new regulation.

Finally, you introduce a bias if your faculty is not diverse enough. That’s why schools and universities should make sure that they develop a diverse group of people.

Not the first AI push

As Next INpact pointed out, there have been multiple reports on artificial intelligence over the past few years — FranceIA, the CNIL, the OPECST and the European Economic and Social Committee all wrote their own recommendations when it comes to AI policies.

Today, Fields medal winner and parliament member Cedric Villani shared a new report on artificial intelligence. It’s always an interesting read, and it was the inspiration for Macron’s speech today.

According to a source close to the French President, multiple pastors now have to focus on artificial intelligence for their own industries.

Today’s report feelings more like a starting point than a conclusion. The French President thinks that AI is something important but not urgent. Now, it’s all about convincing the rest of the government to put aside all the urgent tasks for a minute and look at what’s important.

Make sure to visit:

US-Russia tensions build as Moscow hits back at Trump’s Twitter threat

Trump tells Russia to get ready for US missiles fired at Syria which Russia has vowed to shoot down

The US and Russia went significantly closer to a direct clash over Syria on Wednesday when Donald Trump fired off an incendiary tweet that told Moscow to “get ready” for incoming US weapons, which the Russian military has vowed to shoot down.

A standoff over a poison gas attack on a rebel-held suburbium of Damascus on Saturday has since spiraled into the most dangerous confrontation between the two nuclear-armed powers since the high levels of the cold war, driven by Vladimir Putin’s uncompromising backing for the Assad regime in Damascus and the volatility of the US president.

” Russia vows to shoot down any and all weapons fired at Syria ,” the US president tweeted.” Get ready Russia, because they will be coming, nice and new and’ smart !’ You shouldn’t be partners with a Gas Killing Animal who kills his people and enjoys it !”

The Kremlin spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, called for calm.

” We do not participate in Twitter diplomacy ,” Peskov was quoted as saying by Interfax.” We support serious approaches. We continue to believe that it is important not to take steps that could harm an already fragile situation .”

Despite the president’s menacing tweet, both the White House spokeswoman, Sarah Sanders, and the defence secretary, James Mattis, suggested a decision on military action was still pending.

” All alternatives are on the table and a final decision hasn’t been made ,” Sanders told.

Mattis said the US was ” still assessing intelligence” on Saturday’s attack on Douma, before attending a White House meeting of military and intelligence chiefs chaired by Vice-President Mike Pence.

In anticipation of an attack, Syrian aircrafts had been flown to three Russian airbases and senior Syrian government officials had been moved to safe house in Damascus, according to sources in Turkey.

A US naval battlegroup- including the guided missile destroyer USS Donald Cook, and largely likely a cruise missile submarine, USS Georgia- was in place in the eastern Mediterranean on Wednesday night.

Play Video

White House fights to explain Trump’s Russia missile tweet- video

France has a missile ship, the Aquitaine, in the eastern Mediterranean and Rafale fighters armed with cruise missiles in Jordan and Abu Dhabi. President Emmanuel Macron has declared that proven Syrian regime responsibility for chemical weapons use would traverse a red line for France.

In London, Theresa May summoned her cabinet for an emergency session on Thursday to discuss the next steps, after warning that the Douma attack,” could not go unchallenged “~ ATAGEND.

MPs are not due to return to Westminster from their Easter recess until next week; but the “ministers ” is under pressure to decide whether the UK will join coordinated military action.

Speaking on Wednesday, May pointed the thumb at the Assad government, and promised to ensure that those responsible were “held to account”. The employ of chemical weapons cannot go unchallenged ,” she said.

” We’re rapidly reaching an understanding of what happened on the ground. All the clues are that the Syrian regime was responsible .”

It is not entirely clear what triggered Trump’s 7am tweet, but it came after news reports quoted the Russian ambassador to Lebanon, Alexander Zasypkin, warning that Russian forces-out in Syria would intercept any incoming US rockets, and return fire at their source, likely to entail US airliners or ships.

Russian air defence did not try to shoot down US Tomahawk cruise missiles the last hour Trump ordered punitive ten-strikes following a chemical weapons attack attributed to the Assad regime.

But the Russian chief of general staff, Valery Gerasimov, alerted last month that the next time could be different, and that Russia would use air defence and other weapons if its forces in Syria were threatened.

Zasypkin’s reported statements appear more sweeping, suggesting any incoming assault would trigger reprisal- whether or not there were Russian casualties.

Vladimir Frolov, a foreign affairs analyst in Moscow, told the Protector that he believed the ambassador’s remarks were mistranslated, and noted that the Russian envoy had referred immediately to Moscow’s stated policy.

But with tensions rising, he said, he believed Putin are able to step in to restate Moscow’s policy.

” I suppose up to now they thought it would be good to keep the US in doubt about the real Russian reaction, but Trump has raised the stakes today ,” Frolov said.

The Russian foreign ministry spokeswoman, Maria Zakharova, claimed that a US missile salvo could be used to destroy evidence of the gas attack, which Moscow asserts was staged. On Wednesday the Russian army said it was going to send military police into Douma to safeguard the site.

Their deployment seemed part of a plan proposed by Moscow to bring an expert from the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons( OPCW) to the site of the reported assault. Western officials have warned that any Russian effort to control the visit could turn the inspection into a new flashpoint, rather than a potentialway out of the looming crisis.

Syria’s other main backer, Iran- which has signficant ground forces in the country- could also retaliate if its troops are hit on a fraught battlefield crisscrossed by tense rivalries between outside powers.

” It is hard to think of a more risky situation ,” told Joseph Cirincione, the president of the Ploughshares Fund, an arms control advocacy group.” You have the US assaulting from the air against ground forces intermingled with Iranians and Russians. The chances of the US killing Russians or Iranians are quite high. Their reaction is unknown but it is certainly not going to be understanding .”

Less than an hour after advising Russia to “get ready”, Trump appeared to strike a less aggressive tone in a second tweet.

” Our relationship with Russia is worse now than it has ever been, and that includes the Cold War. There is no reason for this ,” he wrote.” Russia needs us to help with their economy, something that would be very easy to do, and we need all nations to work together. Stop the arms race ?”

But there appeared little room for compromise between the two sides on the central question: the use of chemical weapons in Syria.

The UN’s World Health Organisation, based in Geneva, said on Wednesday that it had received reports that 500 patients had been admitted to hospital with symptoms of a chemical assault.

But the Russian foreign ministry doubled down on its claim that no chemical attack resulted, saying at a briefing:” This is a total misrepresentation on a global scale .”

” Damascus has neither the motive to employ chemical weapons nor the chemical weapons themselves ,” Zakharova, the ministry of foreign affairs spokeswoman, said.” There is no proof of their utilize by Damascus .”

The latest bellicose tone from the White House, and pressure from the military not to give Russia time to prepare its air defenses inside Syria, raises questions about whether the US will wait for a British parliamentary endorsement for action.

Make sure to visit:

French rail staff stage ‘Black Tuesday’ protests against overhaul

National and international services hit on first day of rolling stoppages over Macron reforms

French rail workers have launched three months of rolling train strikes, prompting street demonstrations and transport chaos, in the first major test for Emmanuel Macron‘s pro-business resolve to liberalise the economy and loosen labour rules in the country sector.

The first day of the strikes- dubbed “Black Tuesday”- caused large-scale disruption to the country’s 4.5 million rail passengers. Frantic crowds on Paris platforms queued to squeeze themselves on to scarce develops with some passengers falling on to tracks, while railway workers and trade students marched through major cities.

Over three-quarters of develop drivers and almost half of essential rail staff walked off the job across the country. Merely one regional train in five and one high-speed TGV train out of eight was running. Commuter lines into Paris were severely affected and international train service is cut, with no develops between France, Switzerland, Italy and Spain and three out of four trains running on the Eurostar service connect to London.

The strikes against Macron’s plan to push through sweeping changes to France’s vast nation railway system mark the biggest industrial action against the president since he took office last year.

At rush hour crowds of commuters at the Gare de Lyon tried to shove their way on to packed trains heading to the banlieues south east of Paris.

” I’m neither for or against this ten-strike. I’ll put up with it because rail employees are fighting for exactly what I’m fighting for every day: a pay cheque to be able to put food on the table ,” said one 50 -year-old school support worker who had woken at 4am to commute from Villeneuve-Saint-Georges. She said she saw Macron as the” president of the rich” whose manifesto benefited the higher echelons of society, while the rail employees defended the interest of everyday people.

A 64 -year-old administrator who had been commuting daily into Paris from the southern banlieue for 24 years told:” I’m sickened by this strike. If I can’t turn up for work I don’t get paid. Reforms have to happen and at last Macron is the first leader to really try to change things .”

Commuters stand in the doorway of a crowded train in Paris. Photo: Christophe Simon/ AFP/ Getty Images

The rail sector is traditionally one of France’s riskiest political issues. The centrist Macron never pushed rail reform as a major part of his election platform of pro-business economic change, but his proposals to cut rail employees’ special employment rights and turn the state-run railway, SNCF, into a publicly listed company have become a byword for the government’s pledge to cut nation indebtednes and overhaul labour policies.

Polls show that over half the French public is currently against the strikes and the government is hoping to keep public opinion on its side. If the strikers are find to be defending a common interest or the future of the French public sector, the challenge could become harder for the governmental forces, which until now has easily find off other strike action and last autumn promptly passed into statute a major rewriting of the labour code.

Macron’s ability to push through his other planned changes- such as complex French pension reform- is at stake. His La Republique En Marche! party is framing the dispute not only as an indicator of Macron’s ability to stand firm but as a battle for the country’s soul and approach to economic change.

” We need to rid this country of its ten-strike culture ,” Gabriel Attal, a party spokesman, told just before the ten-strikes began.

The hard left has called Macron a French Margaret Thatcher, accusing him of trying to privatise the rail system by stealth. But this French rail strike is very different to Britain’s yearlong miners’ ten-strikes in 1984.

The government argues that the SNCF, which is heavily in debt, has to be overhauled and attained more efficient before local and national passenger services are opened up to competition in coming years under European Union rules.

The government intends to cut rail employees’ special employment rights so that new hires would not have chores for life or special retirement provisions. But there are also plans to change the SNCF structure, turning it into a publicly listed company.

Unions and politicians on the left fear that this transformation- even with the nation owning 100% of shares- could eventually lead to the rail operator being privatised.

SNCF agents assist a group of commuters waiting on a platform at Marseille-Saint-Charles station. Photograph: Bertrand Langlois/ AFP/ Getty Images

The government denies that it is paving the way for privatisation. The prime minister, Edouard Philippe, insisted on Tuesday that the governmental forces” does not intend to privatise the SNCF” but that” the status quo is no longer tenable “.

Emmanuel Grondein, head of Sud Rail, one of four unions behind the industrial action, told:” We’re defending the French public service , not just rail employees .”

Unions have bristled at government suggestions that rail employees enjoy unfair privileges with job-for-life guarantees, automatic annual pay rises and a generous early retirement policy.

” It’s not true what they’re saying about rail employees having golden life ,” said one SNCF employee in southern Paris.” I have staff on my team on tiny wages running very hard on upkeep down tunnels with rats, clearing litter, ensuring safety. This is a very difficult moment. It’s very tense and I fear it’s going to get worse .”

Any question of overhauling the SNCF has always demonstrated controversial. The train network ground to a halt for weeks when trade union activities opposed changes to rail staff’s benefits in 1995. The ten-strikes of that year paralysed France and forced the then-prime minister, Alain Juppe, to abandon the reforms- a defeat that ultimately inspired Juppe to quit.

Make sure to visit:

French waiter says firing for rudeness is ‘discrimination against my culture’

Guillaume Rey filed a complaint after being dismissed from a Canada restaurant for being aggressive, rude and disrespectful

A French waiter fired for being” aggressive, rude and disrespectful” says his behaviour wasn’t out of line- he’s just French.

Guillaume Rey, who worked at a Vancouver restaurant on Canada‘s Pacific coast, filed a complaint with British Columbia’s Human Rights Tribunal against his former employer, claiming” discrimination against my culture “.

The restaurant, operated by Cara Operations, accused Rey of violating its code of conduct and said he persisted in his behavior despite verbal and written performance reviews.

In alleging discrimination Rey said French culture merely” tends to be more direct and expressive “.

He owes his sacking to his” direct, honest and professional personality”, which he acquired while trained in France’s hospitality industry.

Both parties agree Rey performed well at his undertaking despite his allegedly disagreeable demeanour.

The restaurant and its mother company had attempted to dismiss the complaint but tribunal member Devyn Cousineau denied that application, clearing the track for a yet unscheduled hearing.

She said the application’s denial should not be seen as an indication of the case’s outcome.

” Mr Rey will have to explain what it is about his French heritage that would result in behaviour that people misinterpret as a violation of workplace standards of acceptable conduct ,” she wrote in her decision.

Make sure to visit:

Paul Pogba cannot be happy with treatment at Manchester United Deschamps

The France coach, Didier Deschamps, is maintaining religion with Paul Pogba for international obligation but says the player cannot be happy with his treatment at Manchester United

The France coach, Didier Deschamps, tells Paul Pogba” cannot be happy” with his treatment at Manchester United.

Pogba, who has been called up by Deschamps for France’s forthcoming friendlies against Colombia and Russia, has missed a number of pivotal games for United in recent weeks after a largely underwhelming season at Old Trafford.

The midfielder did not feature when Jose Mourinho’s side beat Liverpool in the Premier League, came on as a late substitute in the Champions League defeat by Sevilla and was absent against Brighton in the FA Cup. Indeed Mourinho has recently turned to the 21 -year-old Scott McTominay for midfield cohesion, praising the home-grown player as “humble” and adding the former academy player does not seek” headlines or flashings “.

However McTominay’s promotion has led to Pogba ensure less game-time and, according to the France coach, life is difficult for the 25 -year-old who cost PS9 2.3 m when he returned to the club in 2016.

Deschamps told L’Equipe:” This is a situation that he must not appreciate because of everything he would have been able to offer. There must be numerous reasons. He cannot be happy with what he is going through with his club .”

Pogba returned to United from Juventus 18 months ago and won the Europa League and League Cup last season. However, he has found life tougher in this campaign, attaining 27 appearances for Mourinho, scoring the last of his three league aims in November against Newcastle.

Deschamps added:” It’s not specific to Paul. It can happen elsewhere that a player is a bit down or is going through a particular situation with his club.

” That could be Paul now, or others at other times, and I will do as I always do and talk to that player to understand better, because I don’t have all the information .”

Make sure to visit: