French police arrest man in his 80s over shooting at a mosque

Claude Sinke, 84, was today arrested for allegedly trying to burn down a mosque before shooting two Muslim worshippers

A former National Front candidate was today arrested for trying to burn down a mosque before shooting two Muslim worshippers. 

Claude Sinke, 84, is in custody in the French city of Bayonne following the attack shortly after 3pm.

He faces two charges of attempted murder, said local prosecutors.

One of the victims was in intensive care after being ‘shot in the throat at point blank range,’ said an investigating source.

The attacker, identified as Sinke, was allegedly spotted trying to burn down the door of the building on Monday.  

He was surprised by two elderly worshippers, 74 and 78, who he injured in the shooting. The suspect also set a car alight as he fled the scene.

The two injured men were taken to a nearby hospital, and by early evening were said to be in a ‘serious but stable’ condition. 

The suspect was a Front National candidate for Marine Le Pen’s nationalist party in regional elections in 2015. 

The suspect was a Front National candidate for Marine Le Pen's nationalist party in regional elections in 2015. Pictured: French police officers stand in front of the mosque in Bayonne, France

The suspect was a Front National candidate for Marine Le Pen's nationalist party in regional elections in 2015. Pictured: French police officers stand in front of the mosque in Bayonne, France

The suspect was a Front National candidate for Marine Le Pen’s nationalist party in regional elections in 2015. Pictured: French police officers stand in front of the mosque in Bayonne, France

The attacker, identified as Sinke, was said to have been spotted trying to burn down the door of the building just after 3pm on Monday (pictured: A file photo of the Mosque of Bayonne, southwestern France)

The attacker, identified as Sinke, was said to have been spotted trying to burn down the door of the building just after 3pm on Monday (pictured: A file photo of the Mosque of Bayonne, southwestern France)

The attacker, identified as Sinke, was said to have been spotted trying to burn down the door of the building just after 3pm on Monday (pictured: A file photo of the Mosque of Bayonne, southwestern France)

Firemen and police officers stand outside the mosque. The suspect arrested was a Front National candidate for Marine Le Pen's nationalist party in regional elections in 2015

Firemen and police officers stand outside the mosque. The suspect arrested was a Front National candidate for Marine Le Pen's nationalist party in regional elections in 2015

Firemen and police officers stand outside the mosque. The suspect arrested was a Front National candidate for Marine Le Pen’s nationalist party in regional elections in 2015

Sinke, who attended a military academy in his youth, won 17.45% of the votes in the first round of voting before falling out of the race. 

Speaking about the suspected attacker, an investigating source said: ‘Sinke drove into the grounds of the mosque in Bayonne, and was armed.

‘He tried to burn down the door, but two men aged 74 and 78 challenged him, and he responded with gunfire.

‘There was a small explosion, when he set fire to a device.

‘The mosque was full of people at the time, and there was widespread panic. After wounding the two men, the man set fire to a car before disappearing.

‘He was later arrested by police at this home in the village of Saint-Martin-de-Seignanx. Weapons were found at the house.

‘It is believed that Sinke may have spent time in the military, and had strong far-Right sympathies.’

Two gas cylinders and a can full of petrol were used in the attack and later found at the scene.

Sinke did not try and resist police when armed officers arrived at his home.

The party, which is known for its anti-Muslim sympathies, has since changed its name to the National Rally.

In the wake of the incident Interior Minister Christophe Castaner offered his ‘solidarity and support to the Muslim community.’ 

Speaking about the suspected attacker, an investigating source said: 'Sinke drove into the grounds of the mosque in Bayonne, and was armed.' Pictured: People gathered outside the mosque

Speaking about the suspected attacker, an investigating source said: 'Sinke drove into the grounds of the mosque in Bayonne, and was armed.' Pictured: People gathered outside the mosque

Speaking about the suspected attacker, an investigating source said: ‘Sinke drove into the grounds of the mosque in Bayonne, and was armed.’ Pictured: People gathered outside the mosque

French gendarme officers stand during a search at Claude Sinke’s house. Sinke, who attended a military academy in his youth, won 17.45% of the votes in the first round of voting before falling out of the race in 2015

Bayonne is in the South-West of France. It is on the border of Gascony and Basque Country

Bayonne is in the South-West of France. It is on the border of Gascony and Basque Country

Bayonne is in the South-West of France. It is on the border of Gascony and Basque Country

File photo of the mosque in Bayonne which was attacked on Monday at around 3pm local time

File photo of the mosque in Bayonne which was attacked on Monday at around 3pm local time

File photo of the mosque in Bayonne which was attacked on Monday at around 3pm local time

This attack follows a sharp rise on attacks on Muslims across France, including attempts to vandalise mosques (pictured: officers stand during a search of Sinke's house)

This attack follows a sharp rise on attacks on Muslims across France, including attempts to vandalise mosques (pictured: officers stand during a search of Sinke's house)

This attack follows a sharp rise on attacks on Muslims across France, including attempts to vandalise mosques (pictured: officers stand during a search of Sinke’s house)

Two gas cylinders and a can full of petrol were used in the attack and later found at the scene. Pictured: Officers during a search at the suspect's house

Two gas cylinders and a can full of petrol were used in the attack and later found at the scene. Pictured: Officers during a search at the suspect's house

Two gas cylinders and a can full of petrol were used in the attack and later found at the scene. Pictured: Officers during a search at the suspect’s house

In the wake of the incident at the mosque (pictured) Interior Minister Christophe Castaner offered his 'solidarity and support to the Muslim community'

In the wake of the incident at the mosque (pictured) Interior Minister Christophe Castaner offered his 'solidarity and support to the Muslim community'

In the wake of the incident at the mosque (pictured) Interior Minister Christophe Castaner offered his ‘solidarity and support to the Muslim community’

It follows a sharp rise on attacks on Muslims across France, including attempts to vandalise mosques.

Beyond attacks by Far-Right activists, including one linked to the National Rally party, which used to be called the National Front, Muslims have also been regular victims of murderous assaults by groups linked to Al-Qaeda and Islamic State.

The deadliest single terrorist attack ever in the country came in November 2015 when 130 people were killed in Paris, including a number of Muslims.

Suicide bombers pledging allegiance to ISIS targeted the Stade de France, cafes, restaurants and the Bataclan music venue, where 90 died.

In July 2016, 86 people were called and more than 400 injured when a 19 tonne truck was deliberately driven into crowds on the seafront promenade at Nice, in the South of France. Again, dozens of Muslims died.

The terrorist turned out to be a Tunisian immigrant who was shot dead by police.

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