Driver at­tacks French sol­diers

Sus­pect shot, de­tained af­ter ve­hi­cle rams into se­cu­rity forces

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - FRONT PAGE - ANGELA CHARL­TON AND RAPHAEL SATTER In­for­ma­tion for this ar­ti­cle was con­trib­uted by Thomas Adam­son, Elaine Gan­ley and Sylvie Cor­bet of The As­so­ci­ated Press and by Pol O Gradaigh and Se­bas­tian Ku­nigkeit of the Ger­man Press Agency.

LE­VAL­LOIS-PER­RET, France — A man rammed his car into a group of sol­diers near Paris on Wed­nes­day, in­jur­ing six of them, then was cor­nered by po­lice in a high­way man­hunt — the lat­est in a se­ries of at­tacks tar­get­ing French se­cu­rity forces.

It’s un­clear what mo­ti­vated the driver, who was hos­pi­tal­ized with bul­let wounds af­ter the morn­ing am­bush and an hours­long po­lice chase. Au­thor­i­ties said he de­lib­er­ately ac­cel­er­ated his BMW into a clus­ter of sol­diers in what pros­e­cu­tors are in­ves­ti­gat­ing as a ter­ror­ist at­tack.

Pres­i­dent Em­manuel Macron took to Twit­ter to ex­press his “con­grat­u­la­tions to the forces of or­der that ap­pre­hended the per­pe­tra­tor of the at­tack” and to urge con­tin­ued vig­i­lance across the coun­try.

Macron’s gov­ern­ment painted the in­ci­dent 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 it was the sev­enth at­tempted at­tack this year on se­cu­rity forces guard­ing France. While oth­ers have tar­geted prom­i­nent sites like the Eif­fel Tower, Wed­nes­day’s at­tack hit the 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. De­fense 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 man was seen wait­ing in a black BMW in a cul-de­sac 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 5 yards from its tar­gets.

A nearby res­i­dent de­scribed hear­ing a scream of pain, then sol­diers chas­ing af­ter the 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 ru­ral high­way.

Po­lice of­fi­cers opened fire dur­ing the ar­rest to sub­due the man, and he was in­jured along with an of­fi­cer hit by a stray bul­let, a ju­di­cial of­fi­cial said.

The as­sailant was hos­pi­tal­ized, the of­fi­cial said, but his con­di­tion wasn’t im­me­di­ately clear. Au­thor­i­ties have not iden­ti­fied him.

On Wed­nes­day night, heav­ily armed, masked po­lice in the Paris sub­urb of Be­zons searched a build­ing be­lieved to be linked to the at­tacker.

The de­fense min­is­ter said she re­ceived “re­as­sur­ing” news about the con­di­tion of the in­jured sol­diers, and that their lives aren’t in dan­ger.

The sol­diers were from the 35th in­fantry reg­i­ment and served in Oper­a­tion Sen­tinelle, cre­ated to guard prom­i­nent French sites af­ter a string of deadly Is­lamic ex­trem­ist at­tacks in 2015.

A wit­ness to the car at­tack, Na­dia LePro­hon, was star­tled by a loud crash out­side her build­ing and rushed to her sev­enth-floor win­dow to see two sol­diers on the ground. Other sol­diers ran af­ter a speed­ing car, shout­ing: “Af­ter him! Fol­low that car!”

“I’ll never for­get that scream — a scream of pain and dis­tress,” she said.

Res­i­dent Jean-Claude Veil­lant said he saw two uni­formed sol­diers on the ground. “It was hor­ri­ble,” he said, adding that both sol­diers ap­peared to be in bad shape and that one of them was un­con­scious.

Coun­tert­er­ror­ism pros­e­cu­tors opened an in­ves­ti­ga­tion on po­ten­tial charges of at­tempted mur­der of se­cu­rity forces in con­nec­tion with a ter­ror­ist en­ter­prise, the Paris pros­e­cu­tor’s of­fice said.

Philippe said that de­spite a sus­tained “high threat” against France, the gov­ern­ment is stick­ing to plans to lift a 21-month state of emer­gency.

Speak­ing to law­mak­ers, he in­sisted that a new bill en­shrin­ing per­ma­nent coun­tert­er­ror­ism mea­sures would be enough to re­place the state of emer­gency, im­posed af­ter deadly Is­lamic ex­trem­ist at­tacks in Novem­ber 2015. The bill is cur­rently un­der par­lia­men­tary de­bate, ahead of an ex­pected end to the state of emer­gency on Nov. 1.

Macron dis­cussed the at­tack at a se­cu­rity meet­ing Wed­nes­day and at a weekly Cab­i­net meet­ing.

France has en­dured a se­ries of ter­ror at­tacks since early 2015, mostly claimed by the Is­lamic State ex­trem­ist group, that have killed more than 230 peo­ple.

There have been no at­tacks on civil­ian tar­gets this year, but sev­eral mostly un­suc­cess­ful at­tacks have tar­geted se­cu­rity forces.

In April, a po­lice­man was shot dead on the Champs-El­y­sees by a man with a long crim­i­nal record, who in­ves­ti­ga­tors de­ter­mined had ter­ror­ist mo­tives.

Failed at­tacks by in­di­vid­u­als have also taken place on po­lice and sol­diers on the Champs-El­y­sees, near the Lou­vre mu­seum, out­side Notre Dame cathe­dral and at the Orly air­port.

A man wield­ing a knife was ar­rested Satur­day af­ter try­ing to force his way through a se­cu­rity check­point at the Eif­fel Tower.

Anti-ter­ror­ism pros­e­cu­tors are also look­ing into that in­ci­dent. The sus­pect has been sent to a psy­chi­atric hos­pi­tal where he was pre­vi­ously be­ing treated.

AP

French se­cu­rity forces and emer­gency re­spon­ders sur­round a black BMW on Wed­nes­day af­ter an hours­long chase near Paris. Au­thor­i­ties said the driver, who was shot dur­ing the ar­rest, had ear­lier rammed into a group of sol­diers, in­jur­ing six. Pros­e­cu­tors are in­ves­ti­gat­ing the assault as a ter­ror­ist at­tack.

AP/KAMIL ZIHNIOGLU

A French sol­dier stands near the scene where French sol­diers were hit and in­jured by a ve­hi­cle Wed­nes­day in the western Paris sub­urb of Le­val­lois-Per­ret near Paris.

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