French President Nicholas Sarkozy was grabbed by the shoulder and almost yanked to the ground by a man at a public appearance in the southwestern French town of Brax today. The incident happened as Sarkozy was greeting people who had gathered along a barricade to shake hands with the French leader.
Sarkozy's assailant, who was unarmed, was quickly wrestled to the ground and has been detained for questioning by French police. He's been described in media reports as a 32- year-old who works in the theater business in the surrounding region of Lot-et-Garonne. The motive for the attack is still publicly unknown.
Sarkozy appeared momentarily shaken but unhurt in the incident. The display of aggression towards political leaders is reportedly considered unusual in France.
Former French prime minister Dominique de Villepin noted, however, that such charged encounters with the public are increasingly a fact of political life these days.
"These are the vicissitudes of political life, and as far as I know -- and fortunately -- the Republic was not endangered," de Villepin said, the New York Times' J. David Goodman reports.
After the jump, a look back at recent, and occasionally disturbing, unscripted encounters between world leaders and citizens.
• The statuette assault. In 2009, Italy's Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi was left bleeding from the face after an attack at a political rally. A man hurled a church-statuette souvenir at the Italian leader.
• The hurled shoe. President George W. Bush successfully ducked to avoid being struck by two shoes that an Iraqi journalist threw at the president in protest of the U.S. invasion and occupation of Iraq. The attempted assault occurred during a December 2008 Baghdad press conference with Iraq's prime minister Nouri al-Maliki.
• Rifle shots at a parade. Former French President Jacques Chirac was shot at during a 2002 parade by a right wing activist wielding a rifle. The shots apparently came nowhere close to hitting the leader, who was reportedly unaware of the incident until afterward.
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