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General

Car-rammer who attacked soldiers sought to kill: Prosecutor

media Valence's prosecutor Alex Perrin, speaks to the press, on January 2, 2016, at the Valence's courthouse, on driver shot and wounded yesterday as he drove a car at four soldiers guarding a mosque. PHILIPPE DESMAZES / AFP

A Frenchman who tried to run down soldiers guarding a mosque in central France said he wanted to kill them and be killed himself, a prosecutor said on Saturday. French officials have ruled the incident out as a terror-related offence, suggesting it was the act of a lone individual.

Officially the suspect is a first time offender. A 29 year old French citizen of Tunisian origin, he tried to run down soldiers guarding a mosque in the southeastern city Valence on Friday.

Why? Because "soldiers kill people", he told investigators.

A practising Muslim from Lyon, he came to Valence for the holidays to see in the New Year with his family-in-law.

None of them suspected he would carry out such an act.

His wife, who was interrogated by police, said her husband was in his right frame of mind, and had no idea he was planning anything of the sort.

It's believed the suspect shouted 'Allah Akbar' (God is great) before ramming his Peugeot car towards a group of four soldiers standing guard outside Valence's large mosque on the outskirts of the city.

The driver bore down on the troops a first time, prompting them to shout a warning, and when he returned for a second pass, they opened fire. He was injured in the arm and the leg. But is still alive.

His motives for carrying out the attack remain unclear, although French police are not treating it as a terror-related offence.

"This appears to be someone who acted alone and had no particular link to any movement," state prosecutor Alex Perrin said Saturday.

The suspect was "rather confused" and claimed he targeted the soldiers because they "kill people," Perrin explained.

He had been unemployed for several years and was not known to police or intelligence
services, the prosecutor added.

One of the soldiers sustained leg injuries after being driven into, and a 72-year-old worshipper was hit in the leg by a stray bullet.

France has been on high alert since Islamic State militants killed 130 people in coordinated attacks on bars, restaurants, a concert hall and the Stade de France national stadium. Soldiers are protecting sensitive places across the country, including official buildings and religious sites.

Meanwhile, French Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian, speaking during a trip to Jordan, praised the troops' restraint in the incident. "They were totally up to the task," he said.

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