Two elderly Muslims have been seriously injured after a shooting in front of a mosque in the town of Bayonne in south west France.
Authorities said that at around 3pm on Monday “a man tried to burn the door of the mosque” but was “surprised in his attempt by two people, so the man shot at them… The individual, on leaving, burned a motor vehicle.”
The suspect, who is being called Claude S by the French media and is said to be an 84 year old with far-right leanings, was later arrested at his home. According to France Télévisions, he had a gas bottle in his car at the time of his arrest.
The two men who were seriously wounded by gunshots are 74 and 78 years old, according to the authorities. One was hit in the neck and the other in the throat and the arm, according to the local mayor. They were evacuated to Bayonne Hospital.
“The suspected assailant was arrested by national police … my thoughts are with the victims and their family,” Interior Minister Christophe Castaner said on his Twitter account.
A police source added the man had connections to the far right, with a second source adding he was a candidate of Marine Le Pen’s National Rally party in 2015, when it was known as the Front National.
Ms Le Pen condemned the attack on the mosque, saying the incident “goes against all the values of our movement.” She called for the perpetrator to be punished.
Meanwhile, ex presidential candidate Jean-Luc Melenchon said: “The harassment of Muslims has produced its results. A madman fired shots in front of a mosque. Enough is enough! Everyone must take responsibility. Public words must stop encouraging hate!”