Levallois-Perret, France, is the most densely-populated town in Europe (per Wikipedia) and while the town usually enjoys picturesque views and moderate temperatures, this morning (August 9), it became the newest site of what appears to be a terror attack in France.
A BMW rammed into a group of French soldiers near the Place de Verdun early this morning, injuring six. While none of the soldiers' injuries are deemed life threatening, three of the soldiers are deemed to be in "serious" condition, and France is once again on alert as the result of an attack. While France's counter-terror unit is investigating the incident, there has been no official confirmation that this was, indeed, a terrorist attack.
A man has been arrested following the attack, and according to BFMTV.com, was shot and wounded when police stopped him. Levallois-Perret Mayor Patrick Balkany said what happened was "an odious act of aggression" that was, without a doubt, "a deliberate act."
The attack follows a string of over 20 terror attacks in France within the last two years; these include the Charlie Hebdo attack in January 2015, the Bataclan shooting — deemed the single deadliest terror attack in France's history — in November 2015, and the vehicle ramming on Bastille Day in 2016. Those three incidents alone claimed over 200 lives and injured countless others. While the soldiers in this morning's attack do not appear to be in mortal danger, this most recent incident sparks ongoing concerns that perhaps Operation Sentinelle, where French soldiers are now patrolling the streets with police and have done since 2015's Charlie Hebdo attack, is actually putting French soldiers at greater risk in their own country.
"It is a subject of intense debate in France whether Operation Sentinelle — soldiers on the streets, helping out the police force — exacerbates the situation and they themselves become targets because they are literally everywhere, not only in Paris," Sky's Europe Correspondent Mark Stone said.
France has been under an ongoing state of emergency since the Bataclan attacks in late 2015, and this morning's attack also marks the sixth time that soldiers appear to have been deliberately targeted. In February 2017, troops were attacked with a machete outside the Louvre, one of the most celebrated tourist destinations in France.
Four days ago, a man armed with a knife attempted to get past security at the Eiffel Tower, shouting "Allahu akbar" — Arabic for "God is great" — and told police his intent was to kill a soldier. He had apparently been in psychiatric care for months, but had been granted a temporary leave from August 4 to 6; the attack occurred the afternoon of August 6 and briefly forced the evacuation of the Eiffel Tower.
The suspect, in that case, had also reportedly been in contact with a jihadist from the Islamic State.
Levallois-Perret is home to the DCRI, France's counterintelligence agency, and is generally thought of as a quiet, affluent region of France. Located just 4 miles (6.4 kilometers) from Paris, it seems an unlikely area in which a terror attack might occur.
Other high profile spots in France have also been targeted in the past: the Champs-Elysées, Orly Airport, and Notre Dame Cathedral have also been sites of attacks in recent years.
According to Time, one of the big reasons why France has become such a significant target for terrorist attacks in recent years is because of its history of violent clashes with both the Middle East and with North Africa, and its prisons are now becoming recruiting grounds for extremists. Add to that the rise of the far right's popularity and France has become something of a hotbed for potential jihadists looking to make a statement.
Minister of the Interior Gérard Collomb was quick to take to Twitter to thank the quick action of the emergency services personnel in the wake of this morning's attack.
Leader of the Front National Marine Le Pen took the opportunity to once again echo many of the themes which she brought forward in her recent campaign for the French presidency. This included a call to close radicalized mosques and to strengthen France's borders.
According to a BFMTV.com update, the suspect attempted to escape but collided with a police vehicle. When it seemed as though he was reaching for a weapon, he was shot by police five times. He has apparently been unknown to police to this point.