Dozens injured in 3 separate attacks in France
PARIS (AP) — French authorities urged calm after a series of attacks across the country left dozens of people injured, and said there was no evidence the violent acts were connected by any terrorist motive.
In the latest incident, 11 people were injured after a driver crashed his van into a crowded Christmas market in western France Monday evening. The driver then stabbed himself several times and is among five people hospitalized in serious condition, authorities said.
The attack, in the town Nantes, came after a pair of weekend attacks: one in which another driver ran down 13 bystanders in the city Dijon in eastern France, and one in which a recent convert to Islam knifed police officers outside the city of Tours.
Speaking on French television, Interior Ministry spokesman Pierre-Henry Brandet said the driver in Nantes “deliberately crashed into the crowd.”
While police investigations continued late Monday, local prosecutor Brigitte Lamy said the incident was an isolated incident and “not a terrorist act.”
Lamy said the driver was a 37-year-old man born in the western French city of Saintes, about 240 kilometers (150 miles) south of Nantes.
Video images on French television showed a white Peugeot van in the market at the city’s main square, surrounded by police and rescue workers.
In a signal of how serious the government was taking the attacks, Prime Minister Manuel Valls issued a statement late Monday calling for calm and vigilance.
The series of attacks, he said, “concerns us all.”
Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve was heading to Nantes Monday evening after spending the day in Dijon.
The driver there was arrested following the attack, while the assailant who stabbed the officers outside the city of Tours was shot to death by police. None of the victims in those attacks died.
The prosecutor in Dijon said the driver behind the attack in that city has a long history of severe mental illness and no links to terrorism.
The man, who is 40, has admitted his role in the attack, said prosecutor Marie-Christine Tarrare. She said the man, the French-born son of North African immigrants, acted alone and had no religious motivations, but was upset at the treatment of Chechen children.
He shouted ‘God is great’ to give himself courage to act, and not out of religious belief, Tarrare said.
However, counter-terrorist police are investigating the attack Saturday on police in a suburb of Tours, which left two officers seriously injured and a third with light injuries.
Paris prosecutor Francois Molins said that attacker, who was killed by police, was a 20-year-old from Burundi named Bertrand. Police believe he’d been drawn to radical Islam several years ago by his 19-year-old brother Brice, who’s been detained for questioning by police in Burundi, Molins said.
Associated Press reporter Laetitia Notarianni in Nantes contributed to this report.
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