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Far-right candidate arrested for shooting two worshippers at a mosque in France

29th Nov 2019

Nadine Osman

A former candidate for Marine Le Pen’s far-right nationalist party was arrested on October 28 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 3 pm. He faces two charges of attempted murder, said local prosecutors.

The Mosque of Bayonne was cordoned off for investigations, and a bomb squad was sent to Sinke’s home in Saint-Martin-de-Seignanx, a town of 5,000 people some 10 miles from Bayonne.

One of the victims was in intensive care after being “shot in the throat at point-blank range,” said an investigating source. The attacker was allegedly spotted trying to burn down the door of the building.

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

Sinke, who attended a military academy in his youth, won 17.45 per cent 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.President Emmanuel Macron “firmly condemned” what he described as a “heinous” attack. “The Republic will never tolerate hatred,” Macron tweeted. “Everything will be done to punish the perpetrators and protect our Muslim compatriots. I commit myself to it.”While Interior Minister Christophe Castaner offered his “solidarity and support to the Muslim community.”

The incident follows a sharp rise in attacks on Muslims across France, including attempts to vandalise mosques. There have been intermittent attacks on mosques in France since 2007 when 148 Muslim headstones in a national military cemetery near Arras were smeared with anti-Islamic slurs and a pig’s head was placed among them.

According to the Collectif contre l’islamophobie en France (CCIF), there were 676 Islamophobic incidents documented in France a 52 per cent rise from the previous year. Among these 676 incidents, 20 involved physical attacks (3 per cent), 568 discrimination’s (84 per cent) and 88 of them involved hate speech (13 per cent).

On June 23, 2018, a group linked to France’s radical far-right Action of Operational Forces (AFO) were arrested on suspicion of planning an attack on Muslims. Ten people were arrested across France, including in the region of Paris and the island of Corsica.

Their potential targets included imams, Muslim inmates who had been released or veiled women chosen at random. The AFO has links to Volontaires Pour la France that calls for ‘defending French identity’ and ‘fighting against the Islamization in France.’

In June this year, a gunman wounded an imam in a shooting at a mosque in the northwestern city of Brest, but police ruled out a terror motive. In March, workers building a mosque in the small southwestern town of Bergerac found a pig’s head and animal blood at the entrance to the site – two weeks after a gunman killed 50 Muslims in Christchurch, New Zealand, in a shooting spree at two mosques.

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Over 120 people attended a landmark conference on the media reporting of Islam and Muslims. It was held jointly by The Muslim News and Society of Editors in London on September 15.

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