Rioters who rammed a car into the home of a Parisian suburb mayor as his wife and children slept are being hunted by police for attempted murder.
Afterwards Vincent Jeanbrun, the mayor of L’Hay-les-Roses, condemned what he described as “a milestone in horror and ignominy”, while the attack was also condemned by interior minister Gerald Darmanin and Prime Minister Elizabeth Borne.
France has witnessed six nights of disorder since the fatal shooting of a 17-year-old boy in Nanterre on Tuesday night, with 45,000 police officers deployed across the country. It was today revealed a firefighter had been killed tackling a blaze started by rioters.
In the shocking incident, which occurred in the early hours of Sunday morning, Melanie Nowak and her two children were pursued by protesters after the car was smashed into their home.
She suffered a serious leg fracture while trying to push the youngsters over a wall separating the couple’s property from that of a neighbour in a desperate attempt to escape. She is now recovering in hospital.
In an emotional statement issued via his Twitter account, Mr Jeanbrun, 39, a member of the Republican party, said: “This night a new level has been reached in horror and ignominy.
“At 1.30 in the morning while, as for the past three nights, I was at the town hall, some individuals ram-raided my home before setting fire to it while my wife and children were asleep.
“While attempting to escape the attacks, my wife and one of my children were injured. It was an unspeakably cowardly attempt at assassination.”
He continued: “If my priority today is take care of my family, my determination to protect and serve the Republic is greater than ever.
“I would like to thank the police and the emergency services for their support and more generally for their courage in the hard times we are going through.
“I do not have words strong enough to describe the emotion I felt when faced with the horror of this night.
“The only way to make bearable something so awful is that some good may come of it.”
Mr Darmanin vowed justice for Mr Jeanbrun and his family, whom he said were “victims of a cowardly and terrible attack”.
He tweeted: “An investigation for attempted murder has been opened and significant resources of the judicial police are mobilised. The perpetrators of these facts will answer for their heinous acts.”
Local prosecutor Stephane Hardoin said a plastic bottle was also found at the scene containing a fire accelerant.
He added: “Given the gravity of the situation, the prosecutor’s office has chosen to qualify this act as an assassination attempt and everything will be done to find the perpetrators and bring them to justice.”
Ms Borne condemned what she called the “intolerable incident” and promised: “The culprits will be prosecuted with the greatest firmness.”
Emmanuel Macron, France’s President, last night held a special security meeting and will today meet with the heads of both houses of parliament and Tuesday with the mayors of 220 towns and cities affected by the protests.
He is also understood to be planning a detailed, longer-term assessment of the reasons that led to the unrest.
Underlining the seriousness of the rioting, Macron delayed what would have been the first state visit to Germany by a French president in 23 years, scheduled to start yesterday evening.
The interior ministry said police made 78 arrests nationwide Sunday, French media reported, down significantly from 719 arrests the day before.
More than 3,000 people have been detained overall after a mass security deployment.
Hundreds of police and firefighters have been hurt in the violence, although authorities have not said how many protesters have been injured.