At least six French soldiers were injured, three of them seriously, when they were hit by a vehicle in a Paris suburb, the French armed forces said. The suspect was arrested hours after the incident on a motorway in northern France.
The incident took place in Levallois-Perret commune in northwestern suburb of Paris, some 6 km from the capital, local police prefecture said on Twitter.
“Police are everywhere, [they] set up a security perimeter and the neighbors are questioned,” one local told Le Parisien newspaper.
The vehicle hit several soldiers from Operation Sentinelle, a French military operation deployed in the aftermath of the 2015 terrorist attacks.
“I find this shameful,” Levallois-Perret Mayor Patrick Balkany said, calling the incident an “intolerable aggression.”
— Clément Lanot (@ClementLanot) August 9, 2017
“Without any doubt, it was a deliberate act,” Balkany later told BFMTV.
According to BFMTV, the vehicle , identified as BMW, was driven by a man. Witness told Reuters that he saw a BMW vehicle, the model presumably used in the attack, with several bullet holes in it at the scene of the arrest.
The mayor of Paris has expressed her support for the six injured soldiers, wishing them a quick recovery.
— Anne Hidalgo (@Anne_Hidalgo) August 9, 2017
Minister for the Armed Forces Florence Parly condemned the incident as a “cowardly act,”saying that the investigation is yet to determine the motives of the attacker.
The counter-terrorism unit of the Paris prosecutor’s office has launched an investigation into the incident, AFP reports, citing the prosecutor’s office. On Wednesday afternoon, officers confirmed that they had searched a building connected to the suspect.
One woman said that she saw a large number of police and emergency services vehicles arriving at the scene. “We saw injured [soldiers] being transported to the ambulance,” she added.
“I heard a loud sound, shouts. Me and my wife rushed [outside] and then learned what happened,” one man who lives in the neighborhood told Ruptly.
Later on Wednesday, police said that they intercepted a vehicle and fired shots to “neutralize” an individual inside the car.
Earlier reports in French media said that a man was arrested on a motorway in northern France in the manhunt for the driver, adding that the suspect was shot by police during his arrest.
French Prime Minister Édouard Philippe confirmed that the man was the one who attacked soldiers in Levallois.
“I want to congratulate [French] security forces who, within a very short time, were able to catch the suspect,” he said.
“A suspect who was driving the car involved in the attack has been arrested on the highway between Paris and Boulogne-sur-Mer [in Northern France],” Philippe told the French parliament.
France declared a state of emergency following attacks in Paris in November 2015, in which over 130 people killed. It was re-extended on several occasions. The current iteration was extended earlier in July and will last until November 1.
In July, the French Senate greenlighted a controversial counter-terrorism bill which would make the measures introduced during the two-year state of emergency permanent. It is yet to be signed into law by President Emmanuel Macron, who initially introduced it to parliament.