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Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 September 2018

Muslim leaders begin European bus tour to protest against terror

Tour stops will include Berlin, Brussels and Nice, with a return to Paris for July 14, the first anniversary of the Nice lorry attack

Jewish French writer Marek Halter (right) and Imam Hassen Chalghoumi (third left) are pictured with other Muslim leaders at the start of a European tour to the sites of recent Islamist attacks, on the Champs-Elysees in Paris on July 8, 2017. Pascal Rossignol / Reuters
Jewish French writer Marek Halter (right) and Imam Hassen Chalghoumi (third left) are pictured with other Muslim leaders at the start of a European tour to the sites of recent Islamist attacks, on the Champs-Elysees in Paris on July 8, 2017. Pascal Rossignol / Reuters

PARIS // Dozens of religious leaders boarded a bus on the Champs Elysees in Paris on Saturday to kick off a European tour of the sites of recent Islamist attacks to remember the victims and condemn violence.

Imams from countries including France, Belgium, Britain and Tunisia were joined by representatives of other religious communities at the spot where French policeman Xavier Jugele was shot dead in April.

Tour stops will include Berlin, where organisers say they hope to meet German chancellor Angela Merkel, Brussels and Nice, with a return to Paris for July 14, the first anniversary of the Nice lorry attack.

ISIL claimed responsibility for both the Nice attack in which a lorry killed 86 people celebrating Bastille Day on the city's seafront and the lorry attack on a Christmas market in Berlin in December last year that killed 12.

The imam of Drancy, an area in Paris's northeastern suburbs, and the Jewish French writer Marek Halter had the idea for the tour.

"We are here to say that our religion and the values of Islam are opposed to those assassins," said Imam Hassen Chalghoumi.

Some 30 people boarded the bus on Saturday with more expected to join along the way, bringing the total number of participants to 60.

It came as a French judicial source said a 42-year-old man had been charged in connection with the January 2015 terror attack on a kosher supermarket in Paris.

DNA testing found samples from the man, identified as Abdelaziz S, on one of the weapons used by Amedy Coulibaly, who killed four people after taking shoppers hostage at the Hyper Cacher market.

He was detained in a Paris suburb on Wednesday and is being held on charges of criminal association with terrorists.

"During questioning, the suspect failed to provide any satisfactory explanation about why his DNA was found inside the weapon, but he insists he knew nothing of Coulibaly's plans," the source said.

Two women, aged 23 and 31, who were also detained by investigators earlier in the week, have been released.

The attack on the Jewish supermarket on January 9 came a day after Coulibaly killed a policewoman, and a few days after the assault by other extremists on the Charlie Hebdo satirical magazine offices that killed 12 people.

According to investigators, the Tokarev handguns and an assault rifle used by Coulibaly were purchased by a company owned by the wife of a suspected arms trafficker, Claude Hermant.

Hermant, a former mercenary during the wars in former Yugoslavia, claims to have sold them on to another suspected trafficker, identified as Samir L, in a deal aimed at infiltrating a network with the blessing of the French police.

Samir L was one of several people charged in the months following the Hyper Cacher attack for helping Coulibaly obtain the weapons, though all have denied any knowledge of his plans.

Hermant and his wife have been called in twice for questioning in the inquiry, but no charges have been filed.

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