Shooting outside mosque in southern France not terror related, police say

Eight people including a girl were lightly wounded late Sunday in a shooting in front of a mosque in the southeast French city of Avignon, the prosecutor's office said, ruling out terrorism.

Shooting outside mosque in southern France not terror related, police say
Photo: AFP
According to initial accounts taken on the spot, at least two men got out of a car around 10:30pm near the mosque and opened fire, including with a shotgun, the prosecutor's office said.
None of the wounded had life-threatening injuries, it said.
“From what we know this evening, the mosque was not targeted. The fact that it happened in the street of the religious establishment was unconnected with it,” the prosecutor said, ruling out terrorism.
Witness accounts mentioned four men in the car, all hooded.
The criminal investigation department has taken charge of the case.
The shooting comes a few days after a man on Thursday attempted to drive his car into worshippers outside the Creteil mosque in southeast Paris.
The driver, a 43-year-old Armenian who suffered from schizophrenia, hit barriers and pillars outside the mosque with his 4×4 without causing any injuries before crashing into a traffic island.
According to a source close to the investigation, the suspect had made “confused remarks in relation” to a string of jihadist attacks that have struck France, killing 239 people since 2015.
Following a van attack against worshippers leaving Finsbury Park Mosque in London on June 19th which left one dead and 11 injured, France's Muslim community has also felt threatened.
Some Muslim officials have described the Paris incident as an attack and called on the authorities to “strengthen protection of places of worship”.
The Paris police commissioner reiterated his orders for vigilance in protecting Muslim places of worship.


‘A heinous attack’: Macron condemns French mosque shooting by former far-right candidate

An 84-year-old former candidate for France's ultra-right party shot and seriously wounded two men in their 70s who saw him trying to burn a mosque in southwest France, police said, as the government expressed "solidarity" with Muslims.

'A heinous attack': Macron condemns French mosque shooting by former far-right candidate
The mosque in Bayonne, south west France. Photo: AFP

The octogenarian opened fire when the two men, aged 74 and 78, came upon him trying to set fire to the mosque's door on Monday afternoon, the police department said in a statement.

The victims were brought to a nearby hospital with serious injuries, while the suspected shooter was later arrested near his home.

The mosque has been cordoned off for investigations.

Police identified the man as Claude Sinke, and said he had admitted to being the shooter.
Sinke stood as a candidate for Marine' le Pen's National Front in 2015 regional elections, according to the official list.
President Emmanuel Macron “firmly condemned” what he described as a “heinous” attack.
“The Republic will never tolerate hatred,” the president tweeted. 
“Everything will be done to punish the perpetrators and protect our Muslim compatriots. I commit myself to it.”
Interior Minister Christophe Castaner offered his “solidarity and support to the Muslim community” after the incident.
In a tweet, Castaner said the events “pain every one of us” and said he shared the “shock and horror” Muslims must be feeling.
Le Pen, for her part, spoke of an “attack” and described it as “an unspeakable act”.
The man's actions were “absolutely contrary to the values of our movement,” she tweeted.

The incident came just hours after Macron had urged France's Muslim community to step up the fight against “separatism” in the wake of the latest attack by an Islamist radical on French soil, in which a police employee stabbed four colleagues to death.

There have been intermittent attacks on mosques in France since 2007, when 148 Muslim headstones in a national military cemetery near Arras were smeared with anti-Islamic slurs and a pig's head was placed among them.

In June this year, a gunman wounded an imam in a shooting at a mosque in the northwestern city of Brest, but police ruled out a terror motive.

In March, workers building a mosque in the small southwestern town of Bergerac found a pig's head and animal blood at the entrance to the site — two weeks after a gunman killed 50 Muslims in Christchurch, New Zealand, in a shooting spree at two mosques.

Mosques were also targeted after the killing of 12 people at the Charlie Hebdo satirical magazine in 2015 by Islamist radicals. Dozens of mosques were attacked by arsonists, others with firebombs, grenades or gunfire.