Police opened fire on a man suspected to be connected to the Wednesday vehicle attack in a Paris suburb that left six soldiers injured, an attack French police believe may have had a terror motive.
An official said police began shooting when the arrest turned violent. The man was stopped as police were hunting for the car, believed to be a BMW, that was involved in the attack.
The man, who was not immediately identified, was arrested on a highway north of Paris hours after a driver rammed a car into a crowd of soldiers, leaving at least three of the six hit with serious injuries — though they were believed to be non-life threatening. Two French officials told The Associated Press it was too early to say for certain the man was the driver.
The soldiers were part of the 35th infantry regiment in the suburb of Saint-Mande and were leaving their barracks just after 8 a.m. when the attack occurred. France’s Interior Minister Gerard Collomb told reporters the driver targeted the soldiers in a calculated car attack.
Nadia LeProhon, a witness, told The Associated Press she heard a loud crash outside her building and rushed outside to see two soldiers on the ground. Other soldiers ran after the speeding car, shouting “After him! Follow that car!”
“I’ll never forget that scream — a scream of pain and distress,” LeProhon said.
The motive of the attack is still unknown, though local mayor Patrick Balkany said the incident had “without any doubt” been deliberate.
Authorities have opened an investigation into the incident, which they believe had a terrorist motive. Paris’ prosecutor’s office said it aimed at pursuing the perpetrators on charges of attempted murder of security forces in connection with a terrorist enterprise.
Defense Minister Florence Parly condemned the attack, calling it “a cowardly act with the utmost firmness.”
The service members were part of Opération Sentinelle, an anti-terrorism operation that was created after the 2015 Charlie Hebdo massacre in Paris. The mission’s aim is to protect civilians.
Collomb said Wednesday’s car attack marks the sixth time soldiers with the Sentinelle operation have been targeted.
France has been under a state of emergency since November 2015, when several Islamist gunmen opened fire in Paris, leaving 130 people dead in a series of coordinated attacks.
The latest incident is one of several recent attacks targeting French security forces guarding public sites. Last weekend, a teenager with a knife shouting “Allahu akbar” attempted to force his way into the Eiffel Tower. He later told police he wanted to attack a soldier.