A man has been shot and arrested after a group of French soldiers were injured in a possible terror attack in an upmarket Paris suburb.
Six members of France’s Operation Sentinelle were struck – two of them injured seriously – near the Place de Verdun in the Levallois-Perret suburb on Wednesday.
The soldiers were standing by their vehicle at around 8am (local time) when they were hit by a BMW in what Levallois Perret mayor Patrick Balkany described as an “odious act of aggression”.
Mr Balkany told local media the attack was a “deliberate act” as the vehicle appeared to be waiting for the soldiers to leave their barracks.
“It’s without doubt a deliberate act … this vehicle was waiting for them,” Mr Balkany told BFMTV.
“The BMW accelerated very quickly the moment they came out. This happened in the middle of the town. It happened very quickly.
“Levallois is a calm place … this is an odious aggression against our military that nobody expected.”
The dark-coloured vehicle was driving down a one-way street in the wrong direction when it hit the soldiers.
It was parked on the edge of the Place de Verdun square in the centre of Levallois, which is situated on the western edge of Paris. The area was cordoned off after the incident.
France’s Defence Minister Florence Parly condemned the attack as a “cowardly act”.
The incident “does nothing to dent soldiers’ determination to work for the security of the French people”, Ms Parly said in a statement.
French media later reported that police shot and arrested a suspect in the ramming after a dramatic car chase.
Le Parisien newspaper named the driver in the suspected terror incident as Hamou B, a 37-year-old from Sartrouville in the north western suburbs of Paris.
At least 300 police were mobilised in the manhunt, which ended on a motorway in northern France, after what police said was a “complex and dangerous intervention”.
Counter-terror police were reportedly searching the man’s home.
Government spokesman Christophe Castaner said “all means are mobilised to neutralise the person or persons who are responsible”.
Mr Castaner said French President Emmanuel Macron had discussed the attack at a previously scheduled security meeting on Wednesday and a subsequent Cabinet meeting.
France has been under a state of emergency since the November 2015 attacks in Paris which left 130 people dead.
The officers were on routine patrol as part of Operation Sentinelle, which launched after the Charlie Hebdo attack in January 2015, to protect civilians from terror attacks.
There are 10,000 active soldiers and 4700 police and gendarmes patrolling France as part of the operation.
The two seriously injured officers were taken to the Percy military hospital, near the French capital. None of the injuries are thought to be life-threatening.
Security forces have been repeatedly targeted in individual attacks in France this year.
In April, a policeman was shot dead on the Champs-Elysees by a man with a long criminal record, who investigators determined was acting from terrorist motives.
Failed attacks by individuals have also taken place on police and soldiers on the Champs-Elysees, near the Louvre museum and outside Notre Dame cathedral.
A man wielding a knife was arrested on Saturday after trying to force his way through a security checkpoint at the Eiffel Tower.
Anti-terrorism prosecutors are also looking into that incident, although the suspect has been sent to a psychiatric hospital where he was previously being treated.
– with agencies