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US man charged with plotting to bomb Confederate statue

[CHICAGO] A 25-year old man who allegedly planned to blow up a Confederate statue in Houston, Texas has been arrested, authorities said Monday, as debate raged in the United States over what to do with the nation's Civil War-era symbols.

Houston authorities said they arrested Andrew Schneck, who at the time was toting highly volatile chemical compounds used in bomb-making on Saturday, near the statue of a Confederate soldier.

A judge ordered him held in custody pending a court hearing, which has been set for Thursday.

The arrest came with Americans deeply divided on whether to keep or discard its Confederate statues, which some see as a shameful reminder of the nation's slave-owning past, but others insist represent a proud and culturally significant legacy of the Old South.

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The University of Texas overnight Sunday, under the cover of darkness, removed several Confederate statues from its campus in Austin, the capital city.

Officials hoped to avoid the protests and violent clashes that have erupted in other localities where Confederate statues have been removed.

"Confederate monuments have become symbols of modern white supremacy and neo-Nazism," University of Texas President Gregory Fenves said in a statement on the decision to relocate the statues to a history museum on campus.

"The University of Texas at Austin has a duty to preserve and study history, but our duty also compels us to acknowledge that those parts of our history... do not belong on pedestals," he said.

Last week, dueling protests between white supremacists and antiracism demonstrators in Charlottesville, Virginia ended in the death of a 32-year old woman, who was struck by car driven by a self-proclaimed neo-Nazi. Several other counter-protesters were injured.

The Charlottesville rally sparked nationwide outrage and energised efforts to remove Confederate monuments around the country. It also has sparked fresh protests, including a rally drawing thousand in Boston on Saturday.

Remarks last week by President Donald Trump further inflamed passions on the issue of Confederate statues, when he drew a moral equivalency between white nationalists and the antiracism protesters in Charlottesville.