Hollande: Muslims ‘main victims of fanaticism’

German Chancellor Angela Merkel also pledged Thursday to heighten security measures against Islamist extremists

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Muslims suffered the most from fundamentalism and intolerance, French President Francois Hollande said Thursday as the country grapples with the fallout from a string of Islamist attacks.

“It is Muslims who are the main victims of fanaticism, fundamentalism and intolerance,” Hollande said in a speech at the Arab World Institute in Paris, which beamed the phrase “Je suis Charlie” on its building in the wake of the attacks.

Meanwhile, German Chancellor Angela Merkel pledged Thursday to heighten security measures against Islamist extremists, speaking to parliament eight days after the Paris attacks on the Charlie Hebdo satirical weekly.

“Hate preachers, violent delinquents who act in the name of Islam, those behind them, and the intellectual arsonists of international terrorism will be rigorously fought with all legal means at the disposal of the state,” she said.

Gunman ‘spent three days in Madrid’

French Islamist gunman Amedy Coulibaly spent three days in Madrid before attempting attacks on Charlie Hebdo magazine, with Spanish police now investigating whether he had a support cell there, a newspaper said Thursday.

He was in Madrid between Dec. 30 and Jan. 2 with another person who has not yet been identified, Barcelona-based daily newspaper La Vanguardia reported.

Coulibaly shot dead a policewoman in Paris on Jan. 8 before killing four hostages he took at a kosher supermarket in the east of the French capital the following day.

His partner, Hayat Boumeddiene, is known to have been in the Spanish capital before last week’s attacks, but this is the first report that Coulibaly himself had been there for three days.

Turkish authorities said Boumeddiene crossed into Syria on Jan. 8 from Turkey after arriving in Istanbul on a flight from Madrid.

Spanish authorities are working with their French counterparts to investigate Coulibaly’s activities in Spain to determine if there is a support cell in the country.

According to Spanish authorities some 70 Islamist fighters who went to conflict zones such as Syria and Iraq returned to Spain in 2014.

Interior Minister Jorge Fernandez Diaz said recently in an interview that a dozen more have returned to Spain since the beginning of 2015.

Coulibaly, 32, died when police stormed the supermarket on Friday.

(With AFP)