Paris petanque players lauded for halting knife attacker

Police investigators work on the scene after seven people were wounded in knife attack downtown Paris, France, September 10, 2018. (AFP)
Updated 10 September 2018
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Paris petanque players lauded for halting knife attacker

  • Seven injured in attack by an Afghan man in the north-east of the French capital
  • The Paris prosecutors' office is handling the investigation

PARIS: Petanque players in Paris who helped stop a knife-wielding man have been lauded for their bravery as French authorities opened a murder investigation into the attacks, which injured seven people.
People at the scene of Sunday night's attacks in the northeast 19th district helped disarm and arrest the man near a cinema in a recreational area populated by both Parisians and tourists, police said.
Some of those playing boules, also known as petanque, saw what was going on and threw their heavy metallic balls at the attacker — with one hitting his head — before plain-clothes policemen arrested the man.
On Twitter, French Interior Minister Gerard Collomb praised the “courage and reactivity” of those who intervened.
A judicial official said the attacker was believed to be an Afghan national. He said terrorist motives were not suspected at this stage.
Paris police said four of the victims were in serious condition, including one with life-threatening injuries. Two British tourists were among those injured.
“The judicial investigation will determine the circumstances,” Collomb said.
Boudjema Hamani said he was playing petanque with two friends when they saw people running and shouting “be careful, he has a knife!”
Hamani and his friends ran after the attacker and threw their petanque balls as he was trying to stab people in the street.
At one point another man, Reda Smain, managed to take the 40-centimeter  knife away from the attacker.
They pushed the man on the ground and overpowered him until police came a few minutes later, Hamani said.
“Of course it's scary. We are human beings, we're not Superman so if we’re stabbed we’re going to die ... But we didn't have time to think about it. We had the (petanque) balls with us, so we had a weapon, like him,” Hamani said.
Smain told French network BFMTV that he struck the attacker's left arm, which was holding the knife.
“I jumped on the knife, took him from his hand,” he said. “Then I fell with him and knocked him out.”


Seven MPs quit UK Labour Party over Brexit, anti-Semitism

Updated 6 min 46 sec ago
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Seven MPs quit UK Labour Party over Brexit, anti-Semitism

  • Many Labour voters, particularly in northern England, chose to leave the EU in the 2016 referendum
  • But a majority of Labour MPs and members supported staying in

LONDON: A group of MPs from Britain’s opposition Labour Party broke away on Monday in protest at leader Jeremy Corbyn’s support for Brexit and his failure to stamp out anti-Semitism.
The seven MPs included Chuka Umunna, who has led a campaign for a second referendum that could stop Brexit and was once seen as a potential leader of the center-left party.
Umunna called for a centrist “alternative” in British politics as the rebel MPs complained about the far-left turn the party had taken under veteran socialist Corbyn.
“The bottom line is this — politics is broken, it doesn’t have to be this way, let’s change it,” Umunna said at a hastily-arranged press conference in London.
The seven MPs will form a breakaway independent group in parliament, undermining Corbyn as he attempts to steer the party through the highly divisive issue of Brexit.
Many Labour voters, particularly in northern England, chose to leave the European Union in the 2016 referendum — but a majority of Labour MPs and members supported staying in.
The referendum cut across party political allegiances also in the ruling Conservative Party, which is now deeply divided between pro-EU moderates and Brexit hard-liners.
The Labour rebellion is unlikely to make a major difference in crucial upcoming votes on Prime Minister Theresa May’s Brexit deal but the move was welcomed by pro-EU forces.
Vince Cable, leader of the opposition Liberal Democrats, said he was “open to working with like-minded groups and individuals in order to give the people the final say on Brexit, with the option to remain in the EU.”
Corbyn said he was “disappointed” by his MPs’ decision.
“Now more than ever is the time to bring people together to build a better future for us all,” he said, pointing to the party’s strong result in the last general election in 2017.
Corbyn has come under fire from europhiles for failing to push for a second referendum. He has instead called on May to negotiate a customs union with the European Union to ease trade ties after Brexit.
Corbyn has also been criticized for months for his handling of cases of anti-Semitism in the Labour Party, and his own past associations with Palestinian militants.
Another of the seven MPs, Luciana Berger, a victim of anti-Semitic online abuse for years, said: “This has been a very difficult, painful but necessary decision.”
Berger said the Labour Party had become “institutionally anti-Semitic,” adding: “I have become embarrassed and ashamed to represent the Labour Party.
“I am leaving behind a culture of bullying, bigotry and intimidation,” she said.
MP Mike Gapes said one of his main reasons for leaving was because he was “furious that the Labour leadership is complicit in facilitating Brexit.”
His colleague Chris Leslie said he too was leaving because of “Labour’s betrayal on Europe.”