PARIS — A hit-and-run driver on Wednesday seriously wounded three French soldiers and hurt three more as the troops were on patrol as part of the Sentinel anti-terrorism operation in a suburb of Paris, the Armed Forces Ministry said in a statement.
Armed Forces Minister Florence Parly said she “firmly condemns this cowardly act, which does not in the least dent the services’ determination to provide security to the French people.”
The driver hit the six soldiers of the 35th Infantry Regiment from Belfort around 8 a.m. local time in Levallois-Perret and drove off, the ministry said.
A suspect has been arrested on the A16 motorway in the early afternoon, Prime Minister Edouard Philippe told the lower house National Assembly, daily Le Monde reported. The police arrested the suspect, who was driving a black BMW, after opening fire and wounding the driver, who was taken to a hospital in Lille, northern France, according to daily Le Figaro.
An inquiry is underway to understand motives and circumstances of the incident. The lives of the soldiers are not in jeopardy.
The headquarters of the DGSI domestic intelligence service is in Levallois-Perret, which also houses troops assigned to the Sentinel operation for the capital.
“We know this was a deliberate act, this was not an accident,” Interior Minister Gérard Collomb told reporters when he visited with Parly some of the wounded soldiers at a military hospital.
This incident was the latest attack on French soldiers in the Sentinel operation, which seeks to reassure the public after deadly attacks around the country.
The troops now patrol the streets after previously standing on static guard outside buildings deemed to be sensitive. But soldiers and police officers are now seen to be the very target of attacks rather than the buildings.
Cédric Perrin, a senator of Belfort and a vice chairman of the Senate Committee for Foreign Affairs, Defence and Armed Forces, said in a statement he was sad and angry over the attack on the six soldiers, “who risk their life every day in the protection of everyone of us.”
Under Sentinel, some 7,000 soldiers are deployed on security patrols in the streets of France, half in the capital, half in cities around the country. A further 3,000 are on standby for deployment. Some 4,700 police and paramilitary gendarmes are also assigned to Sentinel.