French leader Sarkozy nearly knocked to ground by assailant

/ Source: msnbc.com news services

A man in a crowd yanked French President Nicolas Sarkozy by the shoulder Thursday and nearly knocked him to the ground before being tackled by security officers and detained.

epa02802640 A suspected aggressor against French President Nicolas Sarkozy is stopped by bodyguards during the meeting with mayors of Lot-et-Garonne department at the city hall of Brax, France, 30 June 2011. French President Nicolas Sarkozy spoke to mayors on city management for next years. EPA/CAROLINE BLUMBERG / POOLCaroline Blumberg / EPA POOL

The unusually aggressive incident occurred as the president shook hands with a crowd in the town of Brax in southern France.

The man's identity and motives were unclear. French police said the man was detained and being held in the nearby town of Agen.

Images broadcast on French television showed Sarkozy reach over a metal barricade to greet onlookers, when an arm grabbed his suit roughly by the shoulder and pulled it toward the crowd.

Sarkozy started to lose his balance and fall, then immediately recoiled and righted himself. Security officers pulled the assailant to the ground, as the president, visibly shaken, looked on.

Sarkozy's office would not immediately comment on the incident.

Sarkozy, up for a reelection battle in 10 months, was involved in several verbal altercations in the first years of his presidency, including one incident when he told a man to "p*** off, loser."