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Vehicle hits soldiers in Paris suburb, injuring 6

VEHICLE HITS SOLDIERS IN PARIS SUBURB, INJURING 6

At least French six soldiers were injured on Wednesday morning when a vehicle drove into them in the Levallois-Perret suburb in northwest Paris, according to media reports.

A car rammed into a group of soldiers in a Parisian suburb on Wednesday, injuring six before speeding off in what officials identified as a suspected terrorist attack.

The vehicle, a BMW, was parked in an alley before it accelerated into the soldiers as they left their barracks to go on patrol, said Patrick Balkany, mayor of Levallois-Perret.

"The vehicle did not stop. It hurtled at them ... it accelerated rapidly," he told broadcaster BFM TV.

Armed Forces Minister Florence Parly said the driver was on the run and being sought, and an investigation was under way to determine "the motives and circumstances" for what she called a "cowardly act".


* An armed French soldier stands at the site where a car slammed into soldiers in Levallois-Perret, outside Paris, on August 9, 2017. (AFP)

A justice ministry official said counter-terrorism investigators had been assigned to the case.

The incident follows a string of Islamist-inspired attacks on soldiers and police, who have been deployed in large numbers nationwide after calls by militant group Islamic State for attacks on France and other countries bombing its strongholds in Syria and Iraq.

The soldiers hit on Wednesday were rushed to hospital and police said two of the six were seriously injured.


* Journalists (back) gather behind a cordon as police work at the site where a car slammed into soldiers in Levallois-Perret, outside Paris, on August 9, 2017. (AFP)

SCRAPING METAL
Balkany said that what he called a "disgusting" act of aggression was "without any doubt" premeditated.

Jean-Claude Veillant, resident of an apartment building directly above the scene, witnessed part of the attack.

"I heard a loud noise, the sound of scraping metal. Shortly after, I saw one of the badly wounded lying in front of the Vigipirate (army patrol) vehicle and another one behind it receiving treatment," he told reporters.

France remains on maximum alert following a string of attacks over the past two years in which Islamist militants or Islamist-inspired attackers have killed more than 230 people.

Most were civilians killed in Paris in early and late 2015 as well as in the southern seaside city of Nice in mid-2016, Since then a string of attacks have primarily targeted police and soldiers.


* Military officers set up a security perimeter near the site where six soldiers of the anti-terrorism Sentinelle operation were hit by a car in Levallois-Perret, near Paris, France, 09 August 2017. (AFP)

This year, assailants attacked soldiers at the Louvre museum site in Paris in February and at Orly airport in March. An assailant shot a policeman dead on the Champs Elysees avenue in the capital in April. Another man died after ramming his car into a police van in June and soldiers disarmed a knife-wielding man at the Eiffel Tower earlier this month.

The car in Wednesday's attack, which police said was dark-coloured and probably a BMW, was parked near the edge of the Place de Verdun square in the centre of Levallois-Perret, a relatively affluent suburb on the western edge of Paris.

The area, quieter than normal in peak summer holiday season, was cordoned off after the incident, which happened at around 8:00 a.m., police said.

Levallois-Perret is about 5 km (3 miles) from city centre landmarks such as the Eiffel Tower and the Elysee Presidential Palace.


* An armed French soldier patrols next to a forensic police officer near the site where a car slammed into soldiers in Levallois-Perret, outside Paris, on August 9, 2017. (AFP)

3 OF 6 SOLDIERS SERIOUSLY HURT IN CAR ATTACK
France's Defense Ministry says three soldiers were seriously injured in a car attack in a Paris suburb but their lives are not currently in danger.

The ministry said in a statement that six members of the 35th infantry regiment were injured in the incident, including three "more seriously."

Defense Minister Florence Parly and Interior Minister Gerard Collomb are visiting soldiers hospitalized at the Begin military hospital in the suburb of Saint-Mande.

It was the latest of several attacks on members of the Sentinelle military operation tasked with protecting French sites after deadly attacks.


* Police secure the scene where French soliders were hit and injured by a vehicle in the western Paris suburb of Levallois-Perret, France, August 9, 2017. (Reuters)

WITNESSES DESCRIBE PAIN AND INJURY OF SOLDIERS
A witness to a car attack on French soldiers is describing an ear-piercing scream of pain and troops chasing after a speeding car.

Nadia LeProhon was startled by a loud crash outside her building in the Paris suburb of Levallois-Perret, and rushed outside to see two soldiers on the ground. Other soldiers ran after a speeding car, shouting "After him! Follow that car!"

She said the scream that followed the crash was still echoing through her head. "I'll never forget that scream — a scream of pain and distress," she told The Associated Press.

Resident Jean-Claude Veillant said he saw two uniformed soldiers prone on the ground when he came down to the entrance of his 13-story building.

"It was horrible," he said, adding that both soldiers appeared to be in bad shape and one of them was unconscious.

Police officials say the driver apparently ambushed the soldiers and rammed into them as they emerged from a building to approach their vehicles to start a new patrol shift.

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