Thousands of civil servants strike in France over Macron's planned reforms

The death of French politics

Nearby Beziers is one of the biggest cities controlled by the far-right, while the smaller Languedoc town of Lunel further east is a breeding ground for many French religious militants who travelled to Syria to fight.

French trains, flights, schools and other public services are set to be disrupted Thursday by nationwide strikes to protest against President Emmanuel Macron's economic measures.

The strikes saw transport cancellations, some schools and creches closed, as well as limits on some services such as libraries and rubbish collection.

Mrs May briefed other European Union leaders on the probe into the Salisbury attack over a summit dinner on Thursday (March 22).

Unless the reform plans are dropped, rail workers say they will strike on two days out of every five between 3 April and 28 June.

Police in helmets and body armour took up positions around the Super-U supermarket.The Paris prosecutor's office said counter-terrorism prosecutors were investigating the incident but did not comment on the possible Islamic State allegiance.

There was similar disruption at airports, particularly in Paris where some 30 percent of flights were cancelled at Orly, CDG and Beauvais airports. Just one in four regular mainline Intercité trains across the country operated and only half of the regional TER trains.

"Let me tell you that public sector workers are very mobilized", Laurent Berger, the head of France's largest union, the CFDT, told RTL radio.

But only about one in ten central government workers walked off the job, down from 13 percent in an October strike, a government source said, in a sign that unions may still be struggling to raise the street against the young president.

Railway workers are anxious by government plans to scrap job-for-life guarantees and automatic annual pay rises.

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French President Emmanuel Macron said Beltrame had "fallen as a hero", adding in a statement to French media that the gendarme had shown "exceptional courage and self-sacrifice".

He already used this strategy to pass labour reforms in September, which loosened France's strict regulations on hiring and firing workers.

"We're never happy when things change, yet we want things to change - that's the paradox of France", he tweeted last week.

François Rauch, 65, a former SNCF rail operator, told Reuters: "We're here against the government, which is only helping the rich".

SNCF workers reject a government plan aimed at adapting the company ahead of opening the service to competition.

How bad could the strikes get?

The greater Paris region of Île-de-France was particularly badly hit by the industrial action.

Though surveys suggest a majority see rolling rail strikes as unjustified, they could potentially be the biggest since 1995, when weeks of walkouts paralysed the national network.

A gunman killed three people in southwestern France on Friday as he held up a vehicle, fired on police and seized hostages in a supermarket, screaming "Allahu Akbar" before security forces stormed the building and killed him, authorities said.

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