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TERRORISM

Barcelona defender Umtiti grieves for Nice victims

France defender Samuel Umtiti shared his sorrow with the mourning families of the victims of the Nice terror attack as he was officially presented as a Barcelona player on Friday.

Barcelona defender Umtiti grieves for Nice victims
"There were a lot of victims, I'm very sad for all the families who were affected by what happened yesterday." Photo: AFP

“Even if it's a happy day for me, I'm full of sadness,” Umtiti said at a press conference, just a day after Thursday's truck attack on the French riviera city which killed at least 84 people.

“There were a lot of victims, I'm very sad for all the families who were affected by what happened yesterday.”

The conference was preceded by a minute's silence at the Camp Nou in honour of the victims, with around 50 more people still fighting for their lives.

Barcelona on Tuesday concluded a deal worth 25 million euros ($27.7 million) to sign Umtiti from Lyon on a five-year deal.

The 22-year-old said it was a “childhood dream” to wear the Barcelona shirt.

“When I knew there was this possibility to come to this great club I had a lot of emotions, I openly shed some tears,” he admitted. “It's really a dream to be at this club.

“I knew all the players, the style of play. I know almost everything about this club even if I wasn't around.”

Umtiti made his international debut in France's quarter-final victory over Iceland at Euro 2016, retaining his place for the next two games as the hosts lost 1-0 to Portugal in the final.

However, he will face stiff competition for playing time at Barcelona from Gerard Pique, Javier Mascherano and France team-mate Jeremy Mathieu.

But Umtiti insisted the challenge will spur him on.

“I need this competition, I know it, and here there's a lot more competition,” he said.

“I'm ready for that, I'm here to improve at everything and improve with these players who are more experienced than me. But I have lofty ambitions, I don't want to hide, I'm a player, I'm a competitor.”

TERRORISM

Three suspected jihadists held in Barcelona

A court in Spain on Monday remanded in custody three suspected members of Islamic State arrested last week in Barcelona, including an Algerian man who had fought for the Islamist group in Iraq.

Three suspected jihadists held in Barcelona
Archive photo of a suspected jihadist arrested near Barcelona. Photo: AFP

Spanish authorities began their investigation after becoming aware just before Christmas that the “potentially dangerous” Algerian man was in Spain, police said in a statement.   

The man, a “jihadist” who had fought for the Islamic State group in Iraq, was arrested at a building occupied by squatters in Barcelona's seaside neighbourhood of Barceloneta, the statement added.

Police detained two other Algerian men as part of the operation, one suspected of giving him “logistical support” in Spain and another described by police as has “acolyte”.

The operation was carried out in cooperation with European Union law enforcement agency Europol and the FBI, as well as the intelligence services of Spain and Algeria, the statement said.

The three men appeared before a court on Monday where the presiding judge ordered they be remanded in custody on suspicion of membership in a terrorist organisation.

Their arrest comes as the trial of three men accused of helping the jihadists behind the August 2017 attacks in Barcelona and a nearby town that killed 16 people is wrapping up at a court near Madrid.

The Islamic State group claimed responsibility for the attacks, one of which involved a van ramming people in the centre of Barcelona.   

While none of the three men on trial are charged with direct responsibility, they are in the dock for helping the attackers, who were all shot dead by police.

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