Soldier car incident in Alps not terrorism-related: French prosecutor

LYON, France (Reuters) - The incident in which a man was arrested by French police on Thursday after driving a stolen car at a group of soldiers jogging outside their base near in the foothills of the Alps was not terrorism related, a local prosecutor said.

“This is quite clearly not a case of terrorism,” Grenoble Prosecutor Jean-Yves Coquillat told reporters. “There was no religious talk, no ‘Allahu Akbar’ pronounced,” he said.

The incident caused a flurry of alarm coming after an Islamic State loyalist went on a rampage in southern France last Friday, killing four people. It was the first militant attack since President Emmanuel Macron lifted a state of emergency in November.

A spokesman for the army’s land regiments based in the Isere region told Reuters earlier soldiers had told police the driver first passed them shouting abuse in Arabic, before returning and trying to run them down. No one was hurt in the incident.

“There were a good 10 of them jogging outside their barracks. He targeted one group of four, but none were hit,” the Isere land forces spokesman said.

The suspect was arrested in a stolen Peugeot 208 in Grenoble, about 15 km (nine miles) north of Varces-Allieres-et-Risset, where the incident took place.

Coquillat said the 25-year-old man was known to authorities for petty crime and had spent some time in prison. He was found drunk, passed out at the wheel of the car.

“There was no radicalization during this period and this person was totally unknown to counter-terrorism services”, Coquillat said.

Reporting by Emmanuel Jarry in Paris and Catherine Lagrange in Lyon; Writing by Richard Lough; Editing by Richard Balmforth