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French Police Question 16 Men Affiliated With Banned Extreme-Right Group

The men are former affilates of Troisième Voie, a violent extreme-right fringe group that was dismatled by the French government in 2014.

by Melodie Bouchaud
Mar 11 2015, 8:40pm

MIGUEL MEDINA/AFP/Getty Images

Police in France are questioning 16 men in connection with a string of offenses committed in the northern French department of Somme between 2012 and 2015. 

The men are being questioned over allegations of "attempted homicide, violence, theft, reconstituting a combat group, arson and unlawful drug-related activity," according to prosecutor Bernard Farret. 

The suspects — most of whom are aged between 20 and 30 years old — are affiliated with an infamous far-right movement called the Troisième Voie (Third Way).

Farret said the group — which includes one minor — will be held in police custody for up to 96 hours, given the nature of the allegations against them. 

Troisième Voie was banned by the French government following the death of Clément Méric, an 18-year-old anti-fascist activist who was beaten to death by a skinhead gang in Paris, in June 2013.

Footage from a surveillance camera close to the crime scene helped identify Esteban Morillo as the chief suspect in Méric's death. Morillo, a 20 year-old skinhead, was involved with Troisième Voie and its affiliate movement Jeunesses Nationalistes Révolutionnnaires (Nationalist Revolutionary Youth — JNR).

Released in September 2014 by an appeals court in Paris, Morillo is currently on probation pending a final judgement.

In response to Méric's death, then Interior Minister Manuel Valls announced plans to outlaw far-right militant groups, saying he was determined "to eradicate this violence, which bears all the markings of the extreme right."

In 2014, France's highest administrative court, the Council of State, confirmed the disbanding of Troisième Voie and its sister organization JNR, arguing that the groups were "private militias," that formed to "incite hatred, discrimination and violence."

At the time, Troisième Voie counted a few hundred members in France, and was run by notorious skinhead Serge Ayoub — also known as Batskin, due to his frequent use of a baseball bat — who also runs a Paris bar called Le Local, which has long served as a meeting point for members of the far-right.

According to local regional daily Le Courrier Picard, the 16 men who were arrested Tuesday regularly met up every weekend at Le Local, which is located in the 15th arrondissement, in the southwest of Paris.

Le Courrier Picard describes the group as a well-organized unit, with a secretary, a treasurer and a president. Members have a branded cross on their hand and pay monthly dues of 20 Euros ($21). During a raid on the gang's headquarters, police officers discovered a weapons cache containing two shotguns, brass knuckles, a knife and a metal chain.

Among the suspects being questioned by police is the founder of the White Wolfs Klan (WWK), a neo-Nazi group active in the north of France. Members of the WWK are known for their use of extreme violence against victims but also within their own ranks.

Police are currently investigating allegations that members of the clan tried to kill one of their associates after he threatened to leave the group.

Follow Mélodie Bouchaud on Twitter @meloboucho