Sunday, January 03, 2016

03-Jan-16: At a French mosque, a vehicle ramming attack with "bellicose slogans" but "unclear" motive

Scene outside the Valence mosque. The driver of the attack vehicle, a red
Peugeot wagon was stopped by police gunfire [Image Source]
Here in Israel, reports of an assault on a French mosque on Friday are likely to be eliciting knowing nods.

All of France is still on high alert after a series of ISIS terror attacks murdered some 130 people in Paris on seven weeks ago. Soldiers remain deployed throughout the country to protect public spaces, transit routes, official buildings and all kinds of religious sites.

This comes from a Friday afternoon AFP syndicated report ["Driver shot as he drives at French soldiers guarding mosque"]:
A driver was shot and wounded on Friday as he drove a car at four soldiers guarding a mosque in southeastern France... Police said the driver deliberately sped his vehicle at the troops, injuring one of them, as they were stationed in a car park outside a large mosque in a suburb of Valence. The driver bore down on the team a first time, prompting them to shout a warning, and when he returned for a second pass, they opened fire, they said... The defence and interior ministries in Paris said in a joint statement the driver's injuries were "serious but currently not life-threatening..." Police said the driver's motive remained unclear. Local mayor Nicolas Daragon praised the soldiers for what he said was "remarkable" self-control, and Prime Minister Manuel Valls, Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve and Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian were swift to add their backing... The soldier is among 10,000 security personnel protecting sensitive sites around the nation after the deadly jihadist assaults in Paris in 2015... 
The driver is 29, and comes from Lyon, about an hour's drive from the scene of the attack. He is said to be "unemployed for several years and was not known to police or intelligence services".  A German news source says he
seemed to have acted alone, Valence prosecutor Alex Perrin told reporters on Saturday. The investigators have found no evidence that the French citizen of Tunisian origin was linked to a terrorist group. Perrin added that the suspect reportedly shouted "Allah is great," which suggested "some religious element." According to the local prosecutor, the man told investigators he wanted to kill the soldiers "because troops killed people." At the same time, the suspect - who seemed "rather confused" - said he wanted to be killed by soldiers. ["Valence driver 'wanted to kill soldiers'", DeutscheWelle, January 02, 2016]
Aljazeera observes that French police found "jihadist propaganda material" on the driver's computer but then quotes (prominently, and with evident sympathy) the local prosecutor who says this
did not prove he had links with "terrorist groups... These are downloadable images that are a few weeks old. Not the worst type of images, but rather bellicose slogans," he said. "It shows he had an appreciation of that but it does not prove he had links with terrorist organisations."
The vehicle does not appear [video via Euronews] to be speeding at the point when French soldiers opened fire after the driver launched two separate ramming attacks on them. In fact, it's moving very slowly. Nonetheless, an innocent passer-by was injured in the shooting. He's a 72-year-old Muslim man, a worshiper at the mosque, who was struck in the leg by a stray bullet fired by the soldiers. A soldier suffered leg injuries.

(It's hard not to compare with recent vehicle-ramming attacks here in Israel where the shots that stop the drivers have generally been fired while their vehicles were being driven at top speed. That's clearly not what happened in Friday's attack in France.)

We know some Israelis are thinking about whether the French security people are going to now be accused of engaging in attempted "extrajudicial execution".

As for us, we're wondering whether any published analysis has come out that examines why a vehicle-ramming-minded Muslim would choose to attack people standing out in the cold day and night to protect and defend... a mosque. Might this be a variant of Munchausen's Islamophobia by Proxy?

UPDATE Sunday January 3, 2015: Reuters reports (via Jerusalem Post) that the French authorities are considering charges of attempted manslaughter against the driver. Quoting "the local prosecutor", they say investigators have "ruled out terrorism for now... They said the 29-year-old Frenchman of Tunisian descent seemed to have acted alone in "a fit of anger" and did not appear to be linked to terrorist groups." Why acting alone is relevant may eventually come to trouble some French citizens, but for now it appears they have larger headaches [for instance, "Paris terror attacks: French police admit mistakes in response"] with which to contend.

No comments: