The soldiers shot and wounded the driver of the car, who was of North African origin according to witnesses …
A man identified as being of North African origin, drove his car at four soldiers on guard outside the Grand Mosque of Valence, causing a military response that injured the driver, whose motives remained unknown.
The man, unknown to officials of the mosque, deliberately drove his Peugeot 307 towards the four soldiers two times, who are deployed under the Sentinel military operation to protect buildings. The soldiers had to discharge their weapons after the driver refused to stop the vehicle.
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The driver was hit in an arm and a leg. “The military responded with defensive shots, seriously injuring the driver of the vehicle”, said in a joint statement the ministers of Defense Jean-Yves Le Drian and Interior Bernard Cazeneuve.
The French Council of the Muslim Faith (CFCM) condemned this “cowardly attack against the military” in a statement.
The driver acted alone
The driver acted alone. “We saw this person, he was of North African origin,” said one of the imams of the mosque, Abdullah Dliouah. Witnesses quoted by Dliouah, the driver has not uttered at the time of the attack about to jihadist overtones.
According to the very first elements of the investigation reported by a close source, the man is 29 year old from Bron (Lyon suburbs), and unknown to the police.
His vehicle, a red estatecar was registered in Savoie. According to the rector of the Grand Mosque, Abdullah Dliouah, the attack took place at 2.30pm in the parking lot of the mosque.
One of the soldiers was hit by the vehicle, injured his knee and tibia. A member of the mosque was also slightly injured in the leg by a stray bullet and was rescued by one of the soldiers. There was a crowd at that time because the incident occurred between two periods in the day of prayer for Muslims.
According to the mayor of Valence, Nicolas Daragon (The Republicans), the military responded with coolness “remarkable” since they have managed to neutralize their assailant without too much collateral damage.
When the vehicle drove once on them, the soldiers made the customary summons to stop, before firing off again while the driver continued forward.
The member of the mosque, who was injured during the attack was “hospitalized and operated on,” said Daragon. The injured soldier was “taken to the hospital,” have said Le Drian and Cazeneuve in their press release.
By late afternoon, the damaged Peugeot was still visible at the parking lot of the mosque, half buried in a ditch. It bore many bullet holes. The windshield and side windows on the passenger side as the driver’s side were broken.
According to the prefecture, the great mosque of Valence is a very quiet place, “where the Muslims worship in a calm manner.” “This is a moderate mosque and calm,” confirmed Daragon.
It is a large building, perhaps the largest of its kind in the Rhône-Alpes region.
Motivations to be determined
It is located in a suburb of the city, classified as priority security zone (ZSP). But Valence knows no major problem of fundamentalism and the immediate environment of the mosque is very quiet, according Daragon.
Friday night, the motivations of the driver remained to be determined, but his interrogation expected to know a little more about the reasons for his gesture.
“It will be for the investigation to establish the precise motives of the author,” Le Drian stressed and Cazeneuve, who brought “their full support to the Military Officers”. Prime Minister Manuel Valls also brought Friday its “support to military attack.”
10,000 military Mobilized
The prosecutor of Valence went there. At this stage of the investigation, the terrorism prosecutor has no plans to take up the case, which remains the responsibility of the local prosecutor.
February 3, 2015, in Nice, three soldiers on guard outside a Jewish community center had been assaulted at knifepoint.
Nearly 10,000 soldiers are deployed to France as part of Operation Sentinel securing sensitive places set up after the attacks in Paris in January 2015.