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Slovakian Prime Minister Robert Fico shot and wounded

Slovakian Prime Minister Robert Fico has been shot and wounded and is in a life-threatening condition.

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Mr Fico was shot as he greeted crowds in front of a cultural community centre in the town of Handlova, where a government meeting had been held.

Several shots were heard, before his security detail bundled him into a nearby car.

The Slovak leader has been taken to hospital and his alleged assailant detained by police.

“A crowd was waiting outside [the cultural centre] and one of them started shooting,” said journalist Juraj Bury, who was inside the building at the time of the attack at about 14:30 (12:30 GMT) in Handlova, about 180km (112 miles) north-east of the capital Bratislava.

A witness told the Dennik N website that she heard three or four shots and saw Mr Fico fall to the ground. She saw wounds to his head and chest.

Three of the prime minister’s guards quickly helped him up from beside a bench and rushed him into a car. Local reports say he was then airlifted by helicopter to a nearby hospital before he was later flown to another hospital in Banska Bystrica, east of Handlova.

In a message posted later on Mr Fico’s Facebook page, his staff said he was shot a number of times and was “currently in a life-threatening condition”. They said he was being transported to Banksa Bystrica as he needed urgent surgery. The next few hours would be critical, the message said.

A video showed several civilian bystanders as well as guards detaining the suspect just outside the cultural centre in Handlova. The man, wearing a pale-blue shirt, was then seen sitting on the ground, his hands tied behind his back. The BBC has not yet verified the footage.

A man was immediately detained after the shooting in Handlova

In her initial reaction to the shooting, Slovakia’s outgoing president Zuzana Caputova said she was “utterly shocked by today’s brutal” attack on the prime minister. She condemned the attack in the “strongest possible terms” and wished him strength to recover.

Mr Fico, 59, returned to power in Slovakia after elections last September, at the head of a populist-nationalist coalition.

His first few months as prime minister have proved highly contentious politically. In January he halted military aid to Ukraine and last month pushed through plans to abolish public broadcaster RTVS.

Parliament was sitting at the time of the attack and Slovak media reported that a party colleague of Mr Fico’s shouted at opposition MPs, accusing them of stoking the attack.

President-elect Peter Pellegrini, who is a political ally of Mr Fico’s, said he was horrified to hear of the attack and also blamed the shooting on recent political divisions.

Describing the attack as an “unprecedented threat to Slovak democracy” he said people did not have to agree on everything, but there were many ways to express disagreement democratically and legally.

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