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Meta deleted Facebook account of Slovak PM's shooter after attack

FILE PHOTO: Slovak PM Robert Fico visits Berlin

(Reuters) - Meta Platforms' Facebook removed the account of the suspected shooter of Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico after the attack, the company and a state agency said on Tuesday, as the government continues to probe whether the attacker had help.

Fico is recovering in hospital and no longer in immediate danger after being hit by four bullets last Wednesday, in the first major assassination attempt on a European political leader for more than 20 years.

Slovak government officials said on Sunday, four days after the shooting, that the attacker may have not been a "lone wolf" as first believed, with one factor being that the suspect's Facebook and communication history was deleted after the attack.

Interior Minister Matus Sutaj Estok had said an investigation team had been set up, which would also look into whether the suspect acted as part of a group of people who had been encouraging each other to carry out an assassination.

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On Tuesday, Meta said it had removed the attacker's account on the night of the incident and had informed Slovak authorities about the removal. It remained in touch with authorities and law enforcement, it said.

News websites Dennik N and Aktuality were the first to report Meta had removed the attacker's Facebook profile.

The state Council for Media Services, which had been in contact with Facebook and other social media platforms immediately after the attack, also said in a statement that Meta had informed it on Tuesday of the account removal.

Sutaj Estok told broadcaster TA3 on Tuesday evening the most likely version was still the attacker had accomplices but investigators were working on both possibilities, including him acting alone.

"I guarantee we will investigate everything," he said.

Sutaj Estok had said on Sunday when discussing the possible involvement of more people that "I think that two hours after... committing this act, the perpetrator had all Facebook and communication history erased, and it was not erased by him or apparently by his wife."

Officials have said the attack on Fico was politically motivated. Local news media say the suspect - identified by prosecutors as Juraj C. - is a 71-year-old former security guard at a shopping mall and the author of three collections of poetry.

There has been no official statement made public from the suspect, or any lawyer representing him.

(Reporting by Jason Hovet; Editing by Mark Potter)