The octogenarian attacked the mosque as two men were preparing it for afternoon prayers, Bayonne mayor Jean-Rene Etchegaray told AFP at the scene.
The man “approached the building by car and threw an incendiary device against the side door of the mosque,” he said. “The two people came out, he shot at them, hitting one in the neck and the other in the chest and arm. He then fled.”
He was later arrested near his home in the nearby commuter town of Saint-Martin-de-Seignanx after police had cordoned off a large section of the town.
Since his arrest, police say the suspect has confessed to being the shooter.
— Sud Ouest (@sudouest) October 29, 2019
He has been named as Claude Sinké, a Frenchman who stood for local elections in 2015 for Marine Le Pen's far-right Rassemblement National party, formerly known as the National Front.
Since his arrest, more detail has emerged about the man, who appears to have been well known to local officials in his hometown.
“He was someone who had obsessions,” local official Francis Giraudie told Agence France-Presse.
“He considered that he was not being listened to.”
“He once verbally abused the mayor, I had to intervene to calm him down,” another local official, Bertrand Lagarde, told Le Monde.
The mosque in nearby Bayonne suffered slight fire damage. Photo: AFP
His frequent unrequested visits and aggressive nature eventually lead to him being banned from the mairie.
Former mayor Lionel Causse told local paper Sud Ouest: “I know the person who is suspected of having committed these acts well.
“Lately, we didn't really hear from him anymore, I even thought he had moved.
“In the past, I had denied Claude Sinké access to the town hall because he came to see me all the time and was verbally aggressive with me and the town hall staff.
“He already had a reputation for making xenophobic and homophobic comments. He ran in the departmental elections under the banner of the Rassemblement National.”