French police are searching for a driver who ploughed into soldiers patrolling an upmarket Paris suburb on Wednesday morning.
The car sped off after hitting six members of Opération Sentinelle, which is part of France’s ongoing state of emergency introduced after the November 2015 terrorist attacks.
Six military personnel were hurt, two of them seriously. The two seriously injured soldiers were taken to the Percy military hospital at Clamart, near the French capital. None of the injuries was thought to be life-threatening.
The attacked occurred at about 8am during the changeover of soldiers from the 35th Infantry Regiment stationed at Place de Verdun, not far from the town hall in Levallois-Perret.
The weekly council of ministers was taking place at the Elysée as the first reports emerged.
Patrick Balkany, the mayor of Levallois-Perret, told BFMTV that a BMW parked nearby appeared to have been waiting for the soldiers to leave their barracks. The vehicle, described as dark coloured, was driven the wrong way down a one-way street before it hit the troops and sped off.
Balkany described the attack as a “deliberate aggression”.
“It’s without doubt a deliberate act … This vehicle was waiting for them,” he said. “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.”
Witnesses suggested the driver was the only person in the vehicle, which was allegedly parked in a cul-de-sac near Place de Verdun prior to the incident. Security services have been sent to the area, which has been sealed off.
Roger Karoutchi, a local senator, said: “We have to be careful, but it wasn’t a classic road accident. As for the motives, we will have to wait until the person or people concerned are arrested.”
There are 10,000 soldiers patrolling France as part of Opération Sentinelle, and 4,700 police and gendarmes.
Although French authorities remained cautious as to the motives of the driver, the incident appears to be the latest assault on France’s security forces.
In April, a police officer was killed in a shooting on the Champs-Elysées. In June, an Islamic State supporter drove a car loaded with gas bottles into a military vehicle on the same road. The attacker died when the car caught fire. No soldiers were injured.