Two injured after driver targets crowd in southern France
POLICE in southern France are holding a man on suspicion of attempted murder after he steered his car towards crowd, injuring two people.
Several witnesses told AFP that the man shouted “Allahu Akbar” (God is Greatest) during the incident a cry which has been uttered by jihadists during previous attacks.
The 32-year-old suspect, believed to be a local, sped towards a crowd of about 50 outside the “L’Instant T” bar on Friday at around 1am local time (9am AEST), witnesses at the scene told AFP.
The local Midi Libre newspaper said bystanders stopped the man from fleeing the scene after he crashed his white Peugeot into barriers set up for the Feria de Nimes festival this weekend.
The annual grape-harvesting festival features bullfighting and attracts thousands of people each year.
The man was arrested after the incident at around 1.30am Friday local time.
Two people standing behind the barriers suffered injuries in the lower limbs, Midi Libre reports. They were taken to hospital in a stable condition.
A source close to the investigation said the man was not known to police for suspected radicalisation.
The region’s public prosecutor Eric Maurel said the suspect tried to flee but was caught and roughed up by the crowd.
He was in a state of “mental confusion” during his arrest and has been hospitalised, Maurel added.
A police spokeswoman said she had no information about the man’s motives but noted that the investigation is being handled by regular police, not anti-terror investigators who step in when terrorism is suspected.
France has been on high alert following a string of jihadist attacks in recent years.
More than 240 people have been killed by Islamist extremists since a massacre at the Charlie Hebdo satirical magazine in Paris in January 2015.
Ever since the Nice attack in July 2016 when a jihadist rammed his truck into crowds celebrating July 14, security has been boosted in towns and cities including placing barriers and concrete bollards around areas where crowds gather.
Security has been stepped up at festivals around the country including Nimes.