Manhunt after French soldiers ‘deliberately’ hit by vehicle in Paris


French soldiers were hit and injured by a vehicle near their barracks in the Paris suburb of Levallois-Perret, police authorities said Wednesday.

Six soldiers were hurt, four of them with minor injuries but two more seriously, a police department official added in response to a query from Reuters.

“A search is underway for the vehicle,” the Paris police department said in a Tweet.

The vehicle appeared to clearly target the soldiers but the motive is unclear, a Paris police spokesman added. Authorities confirmed they were checking video surveillance footage of the area to help identify the owner of the dark-coloured BMW used in the incident and in the manhunt for the driver.

The incident took place at about 8:00 am (0600 GMT) outside the soldiers’ military barracks in the northwestern Paris suburb.

Witnesses described seeing one person inside the car waiting in a cul-de-sac near a building used for Operation Sentinelle [the counter-terrorism unit deployed across France and abroad] soldiers, according to two police officials. One official said the attacker struck just as a group of soldiers emerged from the building to start their shift.

Eye-witness account

Local resident Tess Despres Pereira, witnessed events from her window:

“When I saw the soldiers on alert I realised something serious was happening,” she told FRANCE 24. “Some tended to the injured while others sought to secure the neighbourhood. It’s a very disturbing thing to see. You don’t imagine this can happen in front of your home.”

Patrick Balkany, the local mayor for the western Paris suburb of Levallois-Perret, called Wednesday’s incident an “odious attack” and had “no doubt” that it was a deliberate act.

“A BMW pre-positioned itself in the alley (where the barracks is located) and barreled into them,” he said to France’s BFM TV station. He said the car “accelerated very quickly when they left” the building.

A security perimeter has been installed around the scene, and the Paris police chief and regional prosecutor are expected at the site Wednesday morning.

President Emmanuel Macron is to hold a previously scheduled top-level security meeting later Wednesday.

String of deadly attacks

France has been on high alert since January 2015, when gunmen killed 17 people in attacks at the Charlie Hebdo satirical magazine and a Kosher supermarket. Several bars and restaurants in Paris, including the Bataclan concert hall, were targeted in attacks that left 130 dead on November 13 of that same year. A truck rammed through a festive crowd gathered for a Bastille Day fireworks display in Nice in July 2016, leaving more than 80 people dead.

There have also been a string of smaller, “lone wolf” attacks targetting France’s security forces.

Just on Saturday an 18-year-old with a history of psychological problems was arrested on Saturday at the Eiffel Tower after brandishing a knife and shouting “Allahu Akbar” (God is Greatest). He told investigators he wanted to kill a soldier.

France remains in a state of emergency and at its highest terror warning level.

France is also part of the US-led international coalition fighting the Islamic State (IS) group and has carried out air strikes against the extremist group in Syria.

More to Follow

(FRANCE 24 with AFP, AP, REUTERS)

Date created : 2017-08-09

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