French police probe mosque attacker’s motive

Bayonne, France, Oct 29 (AFP/APP): French police were investigating Tuesday the motives of an 84-year-old man with links to France’s main far-right party who attacked a mosque and shot two men in their 70s, seriously wounding both.

The attack in Bayonne on Monday afternoon, in a neighbourhood described by its residents as peaceful, shocked Muslims and the community at large, prompting firm condemnation from the government as well as from far-right leader Marine Le Pen.

It struck just hours after President Emmanuel Macron had urged Muslims to step up the fight against what he called Islamic “separatism” in secular France.

The victims, aged 74 and 78, one of whom was hit in the neck and the other in the chest, were in a stable condition in hospital Tuesday, local authorities said.

The shooter, identified as Claude Sinke, had stood as a candidate for Le Pen’s National Rally in 2015 regional elections, but the party has since distanced itself from him.

Neighbours described Sinke as a difficult man.

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

He told AFP Sinke behaved “like someone with a psychological disturbance. He didn’t like people from the left, nor the centre, and few of those on the right.”

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

The newspaper published only an excerpt of the letter which it said contained “discriminatory, xenophobic and defamatory” statements.

Authorities said Sinke attacked the mosque Monday as two men were preparing it for afternoon prayers.

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