Man ambushes French soldiers in car attack
A man rammed his car into a group of soldiers near Paris, injuring six of them, and then was cornered by police in a highway manhunt — the latest in what’s become a disturbingly familiar pattern of attacks targeting French security forces.
It’s unclear what motivated the driver, who was hospitalized with bullet wounds after the calculated morning ambush and an hours-long police chase. Authorities said he deliberately accelerated his BMW into a cluster of soldiers in what prosecutors are investigating as a potential terrorist attack.
President Emmanuel Macron went to Twitter to express his “congratulations to the forces of order that apprehended the perpetrator of the attack,’’ and also to urge continued vigilance across the country.
Macron’s government painted the incident in the suburb of Levallois-Perret as proof of the need to approve a new security law that critics contend infringes on liberties and would put France in a permanent state of emergency.
Wednesday’s attack caused no deaths and hurt no civilians, but still set nerves on edge: It was the seventh attempted attack on security forces guarding France this year alone. While others have targeted prominent sites like the Eiffel Tower, Wednesday’s attack hit the leafy, relatively affluent suburb of Levallois-Perret that is home to France’s main intelligence service, the DGSI, and its counterterrorism service.
“We know it was a deliberate act,’’ Interior Minister Gerard Collomb said. Defence Minister Florence Parly called it a reminder that extra security measures imposed in recent years are “more necessary than ever.’’
On a quiet summer morning, the suspect was seen waiting in a black BMW in a cul-de-sac near the Levallois city hall and a building used as a staging point for soldiers in France’s operation to protect prominent sites, according to two police officials, who like others connected to the case weren’t authorized to be publicly named because of the ongoing police operation.
A group of soldiers emerged from the building to board vehicles for a new shift when the car sped up and rammed into them, its force hurling the soldiers against their van, one of the officials said. Collomb said the car first approached slowly then sped up about five meters (yards) from its target.
A nearby resident described hearing an ear-piercing scream of pain, then soldiers chasing after the fleeing car.
Authorities checked video surveillance of the area and police fanned out and stopped numerous cars as they searched for the attacker.
Then, on the A16 highway near the English Channel port of Calais, police stopped what Prime Minister Edouard Philippe called the “principal suspect.’’ Images of the arrest scene showed emergency vehicles surrounding a black BMW with a damaged windshield, on a cordoned-off highway in the midst of verdant fields.
French security forces and emergency vehicles surround a car, centre, on a highway between Boulogne-sur-Mer and Calais in northern France that authorities say was used in an attack on soldiers near Paris on Wednesday.