Frenchman Charged With Attempted Murder Over Mosque Attack

Claude Sinke (R), the octogenarian accused of wounding two men in a shooting at a mosque in southern France and his lawyer Benoit Briffe (L) enter a police car before leaving the Bayonne courthouse on October 30, 2019 .
GAIZKA IROZ / AFP

 

An octogenarian accused of wounding two men in a shooting at a mosque in southern France has been charged and held in detention, the prosecutor’s office said Wednesday.

Claude Sinke, who stood as a candidate for the far-right National Rally in 2015 regional elections, tried to set fire to a mosque in Bayonne in the southwest on Monday and shot two men, aged 74 and 78, who came out to investigate.

On Tuesday, investigators said the 84-year-old had wanted to avenge the burning of Notre-Dame cathedral in Paris in April, which he blamed on Muslims.

They said there were questions about his mental health.

The prosecutor’s office said in a statement that Sinke, who risks life imprisonment, is now being held on attempted murder, arson, and gun violence charges. Being charged does not necessarily mean a suspect will go to trial.

Monday’s attack further unsettled France, already engulfed in a sometimes bitter debate about the observance of Islam in the secular country.

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The shooting came just hours after President Emmanuel Macron had urged Muslims to step up the fight against what he called Islamic “separatism”.

Investigators have said the Notre-Dame fire was an accident. There has never been any suggestion of arson.

Sinke was put through two days of psychological tests to determine whether he understood what he had done and can be put on trial for acting with intent.

He has admitted the crimes, investigators said.

His victims, one of whom was hit in the neck and the other in the chest, were in a stable condition in hospital, local authorities said Tuesday.

National Debate

Mike Bresson, deputy mayor of Sinke’s home village, Saint-Martin-de-Seignanx, said Sinke was known for his “verbal excesses”.

According to the Sud-Ouest local newspaper, he had addressed an angry letter last week to Bayonne authorities and prosecutors, seeking to bring charges against Macron for “non-application of human rights”.

In a tweet late Monday, Macron condemned the incident as a “heinous attack”.

“The Republic will never tolerate hatred,” the president said. “Everything will be done to punish the perpetrators and protect our Muslim compatriots. I commit myself to it.”

Macron, a centris has been under pressure to show he is serious about cracking down on Islamic radicalism.

The issue re-erupted after the latest attack by an Islamist radical on French soil, in which a police employee stabbed four colleagues to death in Paris on October 3.

Shortly afterward, the debate about secularism was reignited when a far-right National Rally politician asked a woman accompanying her son and other children on a school trip to remove her headscarf, which he described as an “Islamist provocation”.

On Tuesday, the French senate approved draft law proposed by the National Rally to ban parents accompanying their children on school trips from wearing visible religious insignia.

The bill will next go to the National Assembly, where Macron’s party holds a majority, which is unlikely to pass it.

AFP

Norway Mosque Shooting Being Probed As ‘Act Of Terror’ – Police

Police vehicles near the al-Noor Islamic centre mosque where a gunman, armed with multiple weapons, went on a shooting spree in the town of Baerum, an Oslo suburb on August 10, 2019. 
Terje Pedersen / NTB Scanpix / AFP

 

The shooting at a mosque near Oslo is being treated as an “attempted act of terror”, Norwegian police said on Sunday, with the suspect appearing to harbour far-right, anti-immigrant views.

“We are looking at an attempted act of terror,” acting chief of the police operation Rune Skjold told a press conference after Saturday’s incident left one man injured.

Skjold said the investigation had shown that the man appeared to hold “far-right” and “anti-immigrant” views.

The suspect, armed with multiple weapons, opened fire in the mosque in Baerum, a suburb of Oslo, on Saturday afternoon, before being overpowered by a man who suffered “minor injuries” in the process.

Norway was the scene of one of the worst-ever attacks by a right-wing extremist in July 2011, when 77 people were killed by Anders Behring Breivik.

Hours after the attack on Saturday, the body of a young woman related to the suspect was found in a home also in Baerum.

Investigators are treating her death as suspicious and have opened a murder probe.

Police said earlier on Sunday they had tried to question the suspect, described as a “young man” with a “Norwegian background” who was living in the vicinity but he did not want to “give an explanation to police”.

The man had been known to police before the incident but according to Skjold he could not be described as someone with a “criminal background”.

READ ALSO: One Hurt In Norway Mosque Shooting, Suspect Arrested

On Saturday, Norwegian media reported that the suspect was believed to have put up a post to an online forum hours before the attack where he seemingly praised the assailant in the attacks on two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand in March when 51 people were killed.

The suspect in the Christchurch killings wrote a hate-filled manifesto in which he said he was influenced by far-right ideologues including Breivik.

Breivik detonated a massive bomb in Oslo that killed eight people and then opened fire on a gathering of the Labour Party’s youth wing on the island of Utoya, killing another 69 people, most of them teenagers.

Local Norwegian paper Budstikka said it had contacted the mosque in Baerum in March after the Christchurch massacre and that officials there had said security would be tightened.

AFP

One Hurt In Norway Mosque Shooting, Suspect Arrested

A picture taken on August 10, 2019, shows medics with a stretcher near the al-Noor Islamic Centre mosque where a gunman, armed with multiple weapons, went on a shooting spree in the town of Baerum, an Oslo suburb. Terje Pedersen / NTB Scanpix / AFP

 

A gunman armed with multiple weapons opened fire in a mosque near Oslo on Saturday, injuring one person before being overpowered by an elderly worshipper and arrested, Norwegian police and witnesses said.

Hours after the attack, the body of a young woman related to the suspect was found in a home in the suburb of Baerum where the shooting took place earlier in the day, police said Saturday evening.

Investigators are treating her death as suspicious and have opened a murder probe.

The head of the mosque described the assailant as a young white man dressed in black and said he was wearing a helmet and bulletproof vest.

He said only three people had been inside the al-Noor Islamic centre at the time of the attack.

Police were alerted to the shooting shortly after 4:00 pm (1400 GMT).

Officers first reported that a victim had been shot, but later clarified one person had sustained “minor injuries” and that it was unclear if they were gunshot wounds.

Police said the suspect appeared to have acted on his own.

“It is a Norwegian young man, with a Norwegian background. He lives in the vicinity,” Oslo police spokesman Rune Skjold had told a press conference earlier Saturday.

Skjold added that the suspect had been known to police before the incident but could not be described as someone with a “criminal background”.

The man — who was in his early twenties — was taken into custody, police said in a press release carried by Norwegian media, adding that he would be interrogated “on the events at the mosque and the homicide”.

Norway was the scene of one of the worst-ever attacks by a right-wing extremist in July 2011, when 77 people were killed by Anders Behring Breivik.

‘Blood on the carpets’

“One of our members has been shot by a white man with a helmet and uniform,” Irfan Mushtaq, head of the mosque, told local media.

Mushtaq said that the man had carried multiple weapons, but that he had been subdued by a member of the mosque.

Mushtaq himself had arrived at the scene shortly after being alerted about the gunman, and had gone to the back of the building while waiting for police to arrive.

“Then I see that there are cartridges scattered and blood on the carpets, and I see one of our members is sitting on the perpetrator, covered in blood,” Mushtaq told Norwegian newspaper VG.

He said the man who apparently overpowered the shooter was 75 years old and had been reading the Koran after a prayer session.

According to Mushtaq, the mosque had not received any threats ahead of the shooting.

The attack took place on the eve of the Muslim celebration of Eid Al-Adha, marking the end of the Muslim pilgrimage Hajj.

Police said Saturday they would be sending out more officers so that those celebrating would “be as safe as possible”.

New Zealand connection?

There has been a recent spate of white nationalist attacks in the West, including in the United States and in New Zealand where 51 Muslim worshippers were killed in March in shootings at two mosques in the city of Christchurch.

The al-Noor Islamic centre in Norway shares its name with the worst affected mosque in the New Zealand attacks.

Local Norwegian paper Budstikka said it had contacted the mosque in March after the Christchurch massacre and that officials there had said security would be tightened.

The suspect in the Christchurch killings wrote a hate-filled manifesto in which he said he was influenced by far-right ideologues including Breivik.

Breivik detonated a massive bomb in Oslo that killed eight people and then opened fire on a gathering of the Labour Party’s youth wing on the island of Utoya, killing another 69 people, most of them teenagers.

Norwegian police said they were aware that Saturday’s suspect had been active online prior to the shooting.

Broadcaster TV2 reported they had learned the identity of the man and located a post to an online forum from someone using the same name, posted only hours before the attack.

The post seemingly praising the New Zealand attacker and ended with the words “Valhall awaits”.

AFP