A man believed to be under the influence of drugs – and possibly suicidal – deliberately rammed his car into a pizzeria east of Paris on Monday night, killing an adolescent girl and injuring her younger brother and 12 other people, authorities said.
The driver was immediately arrested in what was the latest of several attacks in France and elsewhere using a vehicle as a weapon. The local prosecutor said the man’s actions in the dinnertime attack in the town of Sept-Sorts were clearly deliberate, but not “terrorism-related”.
The girl and her brother were among restaurant patrons eating on the outdoor terrace of Pizzeria Cesena when a man in a car accelerated towards them, an official with the national gendarme service told The Associated Press.
Some officials said the girl was 13, while the prosecutor said she was 12.
The girl died immediately, and her brother’s injuries were considered life-threatening, according to a gendarme official, who was not authorised to be quoted by name.
Deputy regional prosecutor Eric de Valroger said a three-year-old boy was flown by helicopter to France’s premier children’s hospital in Paris and 12 other people were also hospitalised, four in serious condition.
Speaking to reporters near the attack site, de Valroger said he had opened a homicide investigation. At this stage, he said, “I rule out a terrorist motive.”
He called it “highly probable” that the driver was under the influence of drugs and that he left the road and deliberately aimed his car at restaurant-goers. De Valroger identified the attacker as a 31-year-old from the nearby town of La Ferte-sous-Jouarre.
The suspect is believed to have tried to kill himself last week, French Interior Ministry Pierre-Henry Brandet said on BFM television. Brandet said the man was not known to intelligence or police.
Explosives experts combed the area and found no weapon other than the car itself, according to the prosecutor.
A police official said authorities were not searching for accomplices, and a security official said there was no evidence of a political motive.
The targeted pizzeria is in a shopping zone in the town of Sept-Sorts about 65 kilometres east of Paris near Champagne. Police cordoned off a large perimeter of the area.
The incident reignited fears in France after a string of attacks in which a vehicle was the weapon of choice.
An Algerian man drove his car into a group of French soldiers last week, and a truck attack in the French city of Nice left 86 people dead a little more than a year ago.