Manhunt in Paris after BMW 'deliberately rams into soldiers on patrol injuring six' in suspected terror attack
Six soldiers have been injured after BMW “deliberately” rammed into them in a suspected terror attack in Paris – as police continue to hunt for the driver.
The car was allegedly “parked up in wait close to a barracks” before it suddenly accelerated and struck the servicemen “at high speed” in the Levallois-Perret area.
The wounded soldiers had been on a routine patrol as part of Operation Sentinelle, which was created after Islamic extremist attacks in 2015.
The suburb’s mayor, Patrick Balkany, said the BMW was parked in an alley before it was “deliberately” driven at the infantrymen as they left their barracks.
It then sped off, leaving half a dozen soldiers injured at the scene.
The horrifying incident has sparked terror fears in the French capital, which was already on high alert following previous attacks.
Two of the soldiers were rushed to hospital with serious injuries, while the other four sustained “light” wounds, according to local media.
Their current conditions are unclear. A security operation is now underway, with officers looking for the driver and the BMW, police said.
Mr Balkany, mayor of Levallois Perret, said the vehicle was driven into the soldiers at high speed in what was undoubtedly a “deliberate” move.
He told BFM TV: “Without any doubt, it was a deliberate act.” He also said the car “accelerated” and that it was “an odious act of aggression.”
“It all happened very quickly. The vehicle did not stop. It hurtled at them … it accelerated rapidly,” Mr Balkany said, according to Reuters.
The vehicle is alleged to have sped off after hitting the soldiers.
In a Tweet this morning, the Paris police department said: “Police intervention is underway. Search underway for vehicle.”
A police spokesman added that the vehicle appeared to clearly target the soldiers in the suburb, but that the motive remains unclear.
The alleged attack occurred at around 8am local time, Le Point reports.
At the time, a three-soldier night patrol were handing over their duties to a day patrol of the same number, according to a local council spokesman.
“The arrangement of the square meant that the attacker did not have enough of a run-up to cause more damage,” said spokesman David-Xavier Weiss.
He said the men were standing next to a temporary barracks set up by the council for soldiers taking part in Operation Sentinel.
“It gives them a place to change, eat and rest,” he said. The municipal building is less that a mile from the anti-terrorist HQ.
A security perimeter has now been set up around the area, with shops and homes evacuated, and a local park shut.
An eyewitness to the attack, who asked not to be named, said he “heard shouts, including insults being aimed at the soldiers”.
He added: “There was a lot of engine revving and then the soldiers scattered”.
A local described to La Parisien newspaper how police “are everywhere”. “[They] set up a security perimeter and the neighbors are questioned,” they said.
The weekly council of ministers was taking place at the Elysée Palace as the first reports of the incident emerged.
Mr Balkany said the worst hit soldier had been taken to Percy hospital. The victims were all members of the 35th Infantry Regiment.
French counter-terrorism prosecutors have since opened an investigation.
No one is specifically named in the investigation yet, but it aims at pursuing perpetrators on charges of attempted murder of security forces in connection with a terrorist enterprise, the prosecutor’s office said.
The move means authorities believe the attack was deliberate and planned with a terrorist motive.
Armed soldiers have become a familiar sight on the streets of Paris after Operation Sentinelle was launched more than two years ago.
The operation was set up following the January 2015 attacks, with the aim of protecting the city from further terror atrocities.
Around 10,000 servicemen and women now regularly patrol areas in the city, dressed in Army gear and wielding weapons.
In recent months, troops and police officers in Paris have been regularly attacked by jihadists carrying out assaults on behalf of ISIS.
Patrols have been stepped up around Levallois Perret because it contains the HQ of France’s anti-terrorist sub-directorate (SDAT).
The suburb is situated on the western edge of Paris, about three miles from city centre landmarks, such as the Eiffel Tower and the Elysee Presidential.
Today’s incident comes four days after a teenager with psychiatric problems allegedly tried to attack security forces guarding the Tower.
The 19-year-old psychiatric patient is in custody after he reportedly brandished a knife and pledged allegiance to the Islamic State.
An Interior Ministry spokesman said the security threat to France remained ‘at its highest level’.
In April, 39-year-old police officers Xavier Jugele was shot dead while on duty on the Champs Elysees just days before the French presidential election.
ISIS claimed the killing by Karim Cheurfi, also 39, who was shot dead by police in a gun battle. Two other officers were injured in the attack.
And in June, an Algerian student shouted ‘This is for Syria’ as he tried to attack a policeman with a hammer outside Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris.
He was shot and ended up in custody in hospital.
Meanwhile, in February, a man was gunned down outside the Louvre museum in the heart of Paris after he tried to storm the historic art gallery.
On July 14 last year, amid Bastille Day celebrations in the Riviera city of Nice, a large truck was driven into a festive crowd killing 86 people.
The driver was shot dead and ISIS extremists claimed responsibility for the attack.
Just 12 days later, two ISIS fanatics stormed into a church in Normandy and brutally slit the throat of a priest as he was celebrating mass.
A month earlier, two French police officers had been murdered in their Paris home in front of their three-year-old son.
Again, Isis claimed responsibility for the slaying, which was carried out by a jihadist with a prior terrorist conviction.
He was killed by police at the scene.
The killings came after a massacre in the French capital in November 2015 in which ISIS militants went on the rampage murdering 130 people.
They used machine guns to slaughter revellers at the Bataclan music hall and in bars and restaurants in some of the city’s most popular night spots.
A suicide bomber also targeted to Stade de France stadium. The atrocity led to the declaration of a state of emergency in France.
In January the same year, two brothers killed 11 people inside the Paris building where the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo is headquartered.
ISIS claimed the incident was retaliation for the magazine’s publication of cartoons about the Prophet Muhammad.
More were killed subsequently in attacks on a kosher market in eastern Paris and on police. There were 17 victims in all, including two police officers.
The attackers were killed.
The driver in today’s incident remains on the run.