PARIS: A man rammed his car into four soldiers guarding a mosque on Friday in the southeast French city of Valence, and was stopped when a soldier fired and wounded him, authorities said.
One soldier was slightly injured in the leg, and a passerby was hit in the leg by a stray bullet, Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve and Defense Minister Jean-Yves L Drian said in a joint statement.
The man, who was not immediately identified, was arrested and hospitalised, according to the statement.
The attacker twice rammed his car into the soldiers guarding the main mosque in the city, Valence’s Mayor Nicolas Daragon and a spokesman for the prosecutor’s office said.
The soldiers, some thrown to the ground, fired warning shots and one then fired to disable the driver, who was hit in the arm and leg, the mayor told iTele TV.
The man’s motives were unclear and investigations in this regard are underway.
The secretary-general of the prosecutor’s office, Frederic Ouiseau, told iTele that authorities must be “extremely prudent about the motive” for the attack.
France is on high alert after militant attacks in Paris on November 13 that left 130 people dead, and is one of many countries taking extra security precautions.
The soldiers are part of the reinforced security guarding places of worship and other sensitive sites.
Daragon, the mayor, said the incident occurred between two prayer services while hundreds of people were at the mosque. Some were in the parking lot at the time.
“Even if this happened near a mosque, the target was the soldiers,” the mayor was quoted as saying.
The attack comes just days after demonstrators ransacked a Muslim prayer hall and attempted to burn copies of the Holy Quran on the French island of Corsica Friday, police said, following a night of violence that left two firefighters injured.