Print Print

84-year-old man arrested after France mosque shooting


French authorities have arrested a man suspected of shooting and seriously wounding two men in their 70s outside a mosque in southwest France, police have said.

The octogenarian attacked the mosque as two men were preparing it for afternoon prayers, Bayonne mayor Jean-Rene Etchegaray told AFP at the scene.

The man “approached the building by car and threw an incendiary device against the side door of the mosque,” he said. “The two people came out, he shot at them, hitting one in the neck and the other in the chest and arm. He then fled.”
Claude Sinke, who stood as a candidate for the far-right National Rally in 2015 regional elections, tried to set fire to a mosque in Bayonne in the southwest on Monday October 28th, 2019.

On Tuesday, investigators said the 84-year-old had wanted to avenge the burning of Notre-Dame cathedral in Paris in April, which he blamed on Muslims.

The prosecutor's office said in a statement that Sinke, who risks life imprisonment, is now being held on attempted murder, arson, and gun violence charges. Being charged does not necessarily mean a suspect will go to trial.

The shooting came just hours after President Emmanuel Macron had urged Muslims to step up the fight against what he called Islamic "separatism".

The president had said he planned to fight, alongside Muslim leaders, against religious sectarianism and resistance among some French Muslims to integrate.

“It is a fact that a form of separatism has taken root in some places in our Republic, in other words a desire to not live together and to not be in the Republic,” he said.

“It is in the name of a religion, namely Islam,” he said before meeting members of the French Council of the Muslim Faith (CFCM).

In a tweet late Monday, Macron condemned the incident as a "heinous attack".

"The Republic will never tolerate hatred," the president said. "Everything will be done to punish the perpetrators and protect our Muslim compatriots. I commit myself to it."

On Tuesday, the French senate approved draft law proposed by the National Rally to ban parents accompanying their children on school trips from wearing visible religious insignia.

The bill will next go to the National Assembly, where Macron's party holds a majority, which is unlikely to pass it.