At least 11 people have been injured after a driver shouting “Allahu Akbar” (“God is greatest”) drove into pedestrians in eastern France, just a day after a man uttering the same words was killed in an attack on police officers.
Two of the people injured in Sunday’s car attack in the city of Dijon were in a serious condition, a police source said, adding that the driver had been arrested.
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“The man, born in 1974, is apparently unbalanced and had been in a psychiatric hospital,” a source close to the investigation told AFP, adding that “for now his motives are still unclear”.
The man had targeted groups of passers-by at five different locations in Dijon on Sunday evening in a rampage that lasted around half an hour, the police source said.
“Nine people were lightly injured and two others seriously but their lives do not appear to be in danger,” the source said.
Witnesses told police that the driver shouted “Allahu Akbar” and “that he was acting for the children of Palestine”, a source close to the investigation said.
Police sources said the driver was known to police for petty offences dating back to the 1990s.
‘Solidarity’ with victims
Marie-Christine Tarrare, Dijon prosecutor, refused to comment when contacted by AFP.
Manuel Valls, France’s prime minister, took to Twitter to express “solidarity” with those injured in the attack.
A suspected terrorist attack on Saturday that saw a French convert to Islam killed after attacking police officers with a knife while also reportedly crying “Allahu Akbar” in the central town of Joue-les-Tours.
The assailant, Burundi-born French national Bertrand Nzohabonayo, seriously injured two officers – slashing one in the face – and hurting another.
The 20-year-old attacker also cried “Allahu Akbar” during the assault, said a source close to the case speaking on condition of anonymity.
The assault prompted the government to step up security at police and fire stations nationwide.
Nzohabonayo had previously committed petty offences but was not on a domestic intelligence watch-list although his brother is known for his extremist views and once pondered going to Syria, the source said.
The anti-terror branch of the Paris prosecutor’s office has opened an investigation into that attack, with the line of inquiry focusing on whether it was motivated by religious extremism.
ISIL, or Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, has repeatedly singled out France for such attacks, most recently in a video posted on websites this week.
Last week in Australia, an Iranian-born Islamist with a history of extremism and violence entered a cafe and held people hostage for 16 hours before being killed. Two of the hostages also died.
Last year in France, a recent convert to Islam also stabbed a soldier in the busy Paris commercial complex and transport hub of La Defense.
And the main suspect in the murders of four people at Brussels’ Jewish Museum in May, Mehdi Nemmouche, spent more than a year fighting with extremists in Syria.
Authorities in France believe around 1,200 nationals or residents are involved in one way or another in fighters’ networks in Iraq and Syria.