PARIS — French police said a vehicle slammed into soldiers guarding a Paris suburb on Wednesday, injuring six of them, before getting away. Police described the incident as an “apparently deliberate act.”
Authorities were searching for the vehicle and driver after the incident in Levallois, northwest of Paris, according to a Paris police spokesman.
The vehicle appeared to clearly target the soldiers but the motive is unclear, the spokesman said. The official was not authorized to be publicly named according to police policy.
Four of the soldiers suffered light injuries while two were hospitalized in the Percy military hospital south of Paris, police officials said. They were from the 35th infantry regiment and served in Operation Sentinelle, created to guard prominent French sites after a string of deadly Islamic extremist attacks in 2015, according to the interior ministry.
Witnesses described seeing a BMW with one person inside waiting in a cul-de-sac near a building used for Sentinelle soldiers, according to two police officials. One official said the attacker hit just as a group of soldiers emerged from the building to board vehicles for a new shift.
Authorities were checking video surveillance of the area to identify the vehicle and hunt the driver.
The mayor of Levallois also said it was a deliberate act targeting security forces. Patrick Balkany denounced on BFM television what he called an “odious attack” and said it was “without a doubt deliberate.”
“A BMW pre-positioned itself in the alley (where the barracks is located) and barreled into them,” he said. He added that the car “accelerated very quickly when they left” the building.
A security perimeter was installed around the scene, and the Paris police chief and regional prosecutor were expected at the site later Wednesday morning.
French President Emmanuel Macron was holding a previously scheduled top-level security meeting Wednesday morning.
The incident is the latest of several attacks targeting security forces in France guarding sites after a string of deadly attacks.
France has been under a state of emergency since November 2015 and has seen a string of attacks on security forces who have been regularly targeted, particularly those guarding key tourist sites.
An 18-year-old with a history of psychological problems was arrested on Saturday at the Eiffel Tower after brandishing a knife and shouting “Allahu Akbar” (God is Greatest).
He told investigators he wanted to kill a soldier, sources close to the case told AFP.
In February, a man armed with a machete attacked four soldiers on patrol at Paris’s Louvre Museum, while in April another extremist shot and killed a policeman on the Champs Elysees.
In June, a 40-year-old Algeria doctorate student who had pledged allegiance to the Islamic State group attacked a policeman with a hammer outside Notre Dame cathedral.