One dead after van hits people at Marseille bus stops

MARSEILLE: One person was killed and another seriously injured in the southern French city of Marseille on Monday (Aug 21) after a convicted criminal with psychiatric problems drove a van into people waiting at two bus stops, police said.

French forensic police search the site following a car crash on Aug 21, 2017, in the southern Mediterranean city of Marseille. (Photo: AFP/Boris Horvat)

The incident comes with Europe on high alert following last week’s car ramming attacks in northeastern Spain.

But Marseille’s prosecutor Xavier Tarabeux said there was no evidence of a terror connection and that the driver – who had several convictions for offences including robbery – was mentally unstable.

“He was found with a letter from a psychiatric clinic and we are leaning towards treating it as a mental health case,” Tarabeux told AFP.

The man first drove at speed at a bus stop in the city’s northern 13th district at around 9.00am (3.00pm Singapore time), hitting a woman who was rushed to hospital with serious pelvis injuries.

The driver of the stolen van then continued to the eastern 11th district, where he slammed into another bus stop, killing a 42-year-old woman.

The police caught up with him shortly afterwards in the city’s Old Port district, where he was arrested.

Several European cities, including London, Berlin and Stockholm, have been targeted in a wave of attacks by Islamist radicals using vehicles as killing machines. Many have been claimed by the Islamic State group.

Terrorism experts have warned that the intense media coverage of the violence could spur copycat attacks by people with mental health problems and a propensity for violence.

Marseille’s mayor Jean-Claude Gaudin said the driver of the van, who is in his mid-30s, had been in and out of psychiatric clinics.

The suspect was undergoing psychiatric tests on Monday. He had yet to be questioned by investigators about his motives.

SEVERAL ATTACKS THWARTED

The bloodiest vehicle attack in Europe took place in July 2016 in the French city of Nice, when a radicalised Tunisian drove a truck through crowds celebrating Bastille Day, killing 86 people.

France has avoided a major incident in the past year but has suffered a slew of small-scale strikes, mainly targeting the security forces.

On Aug 9, a 36-year-old Algerian ran down soldiers on anti-terrorism patrol west of Paris, injuring six.

Three days earlier, a knife-wielding 18-year-old on leave from a psychiatric hospital was arrested at the Eiffel Tower after bursting past security shouting “Allahu Akbar” (God is Greatest).

Police initially treated that case as a criminal affair but it was later upgraded to an anti-terror investigation after he said during questioning that he had wanted to kill a soldier.

Source AFP



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