French security forces have shot and arrested a man suspected of being behind an attack on a group of soldiers on Wednesday morning in the town of Levallois-Perret, security sources told AFP.
The suspect, Hamou B., aged 36, was intercepted on the A16 motorway north of the French capital in a vehicle used to drive into the soldiers, the sources said, asking not to be named.
After a chase, armed officers shot the driver five times, wounding the man, who was then arrested, sources involved in the manhunt said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
The suspect, who lived in the Yvelines suburb of Paris and had no previous convictions, has been hospitalised in Lille but the French press has reported that his life is not in danger.
An emergency medical helicopter arrives on the site after the police arrested a suspect on the A16. AFP
One source close to the case said the man had been stopped at the wheel of a BMW driving towards the northern port of Calais.
A second legal source added: “The arrested individual, born in 1980, is suspected to be the culprit” of the assault in the Levallois-Perret area of Paris (see below) at around 8am.
Levallois-Perret, where the incident occurred. Google maps.
“He was driving the vehicle we were looking for and tried to flee,” the source added, leading police to open fire.
French security forces launched a manhunt on Wednesday after a car ploughed into anti-terrorism soldiers outside their barracks, injuring six, three more seriously.
French soldiers gather at the site where a car slammed into soldiers on patrol in Levallois-Perret. AFP
“I heard a huge crash which I thought was the sound of scaffolding being put up,” Thierry Chappe, a resident in a building opposite the crime scene, told AFP.
Interior Minister Gerard Collomb described the act as “deliberate” and carried out by a “man on his own”.
He spoke after visiting three of the injured soldiers, who belonged to the 35th infantry, along with Defence Minister Florence Parly. All six were taken to hospital, but none has life-threatening injuries, they said.
The Paris prosecutors' office said its anti-terrorism unit has launched a probe into “attempted killings… in relation to a terrorist undertaking”.
Mayor of Levallois-Perret, Patrick Balkany said, describing the incident as “without doubt a deliberate act”.
French Interior Minister (L) and French Defence Minister walk after meeting soldiers wounded in an attack. AFP
Balkany told the all-news channel BFMTV that the car “accelerated very fast when they (soldiers) were coming out” of the barracks.
Officials and rescuers gather near vehicles after a car slammed into soldiers on patrol. AFP
The soldiers were engaged in Sentinel Operation (Opération Sentinelle), a French military operation deployed after the January 2015 Île-de-France attacks, with the objective of protecting sensitive “points” of the territory from terrorism.
France has been under a state of emergency since November 2015 and has seen a string of attacks on security forces who have been regularly targeted, particularly those guarding key tourist sites.
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, sources close to the case told AFP.
Police work at the site where a car slammed into soldiers. AFP
String of bloody attacks
In the bloodiest attack targeting France, 130 people were killed in a wave of shootings and bombings in Paris on November 13, 2015, in carnage claimed by Isis.
In January 2015, two brothers who had vowed allegiance to Al-Qaeda gunned down 12 people at satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo in Paris.
France is part of the US-led international coalition fighting Isis and has carried out air strikes against the extremist group in Syria.
In February, a man armed with a machete attacked four soldiers on patrol at Paris's Louvre Museum, while in April another extremist shot and killed a policeman on the Champs Elysees.
In June, a 40-year-old Algerian doctorate student who had pledged allegiance to Isis attacked a policeman with a hammer outside Notre Dame cathedral.
The man, aged in his late 30s, was intercepted on the A16 motorway north of the French capital in a vehicle used to drive into the soldiers, the sources said, asking not to be named.