Man rams soldiers guarding French mosque

January 2, 2016 5:09 pm

 French Police officers patrol along the Champs Elysees during the New Year parade in Paris. Photo / AP

A man rammed his car into four soldiers guarding a mosque on Friday
in the southeast French city of Valence, but was stopped when a soldier
fired and wounded him, authorities said.
His motives were
unclear, but with on high alert after the coordinated attacks in
Paris on Nov. 13, determining what, or who, was behind the attack
carried a sense of urgency.
One soldier was slightly injured in
the leg, and a passerby was hit in the leg by a stray bullet, the
interior and defense ministers said in a joint statement.
The
man, who was alone in the red car and not immediately identified, was
arrested and hospitalized, according to the statement by Interior
Minister Bernard Cazeneuve and Defense Minister Jean-Yves L Drian.
The
attacker twice rammed his car into the soldiers guarding the main
mosque in Valence, the mayor and a spokesman for the prosecutor’s office
said, charging once then putting his car into reverse to try to ram the
soldiers again.

The soldiers, some thrown to the ground, fired warning shots
and one then fired to disable the driver, who was hit in the arm and
leg, Mayor Nicolas Daragon told iTele TV.
The man’s motives were being investigated.
France
is on high alert after the Nov. 13 Paris attacks, claimed by the
Islamic State group, that killed 130 people and injured hundreds more.
The soldiers are part of the reinforced security guarding places of
worship and other sensitive sites around France.
The
secretary-general of the prosecutor’s office, Frederic Ouiseau, told
iTele that authorities must be “extremely prudent about the motive” for
the attack.
France was jarred days before Christmas in 2014 by
random attacks that followed threats by the Islamic State group. A
driver barreled into a crowd in Nantes, near the Atlantic coast,
striking 10 people, just days after a man used his vehicle to ram into
small groups of people in Dijon, east of Paris. Both suspects had
histories of mental illness. In a third incident, a man attacked police
with his knife at a police station and was killed. The case hasn’t been
resolved.
During his New Year’s Eve address to the nation, President Francois Hollande spoke frankly.
“The
threat is still there … It remains in fact at its highest level, and
we are regularly disrupting planned attacks,” the president said.
Daragon,
the Valence mayor, said the soldiers were attacked between two prayer
services, and hundreds of people were at the mosque. Some were in the
nearby parking lot at the time.
“Even if this happened near a mosque, the target was the soldiers,” the mayor said.

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