A car ploughed into the outdoor terrace of a pizzeria in the small town of Sept-Sorts east of Paris on Monday, killing a 12-year-old girl and seriously injuring several other people, a French Interior Ministry spokesman said.
He said the driver had deliberately targetted the diners but that the early indications were this was not an act of terrorism. Police arrested the driver.
“I cannot tell you that terrorism has been discounted, but it is not the leading line of inquiry at this point. The first indications don’t point towards terrorism,” spokesman Pierre-Henry Brandet told BFM TV.
Brandet later told Reuters the man was a “depressive” aged 32.
Officers from the national gendarmerie put up a security cordon around the scene and urged the public not to hinder their operation.
The incident occurred on a warm summer’s evening on the eve of a national holiday and witnesses said the outdoor eating area was busy.
A photograph published on social media showed a grey BMW car surrounded by upturned tables in the outdoor seating area of a restaurant. Reuters could not immediately verify the authenticity of the image.
Brandet said five victims were being treated in hospital for life-threatening injuries. Eight others suffered minor injuries.
“Everyone on the terrace was hit,” one witness told BFM TV.
A police source said the driver lived in a neighbouring village to Sept-Sorts, about 41 km (25.6 miles) to the east of Paris, and had tried to commit suicide on Sunday.
The incident occurred less than a week after an Algerian national was arrested on suspicion of deliberately ramming a hire car into a group of soldiers on a patrol in the Paris suburb of Levallois-Perret, injuring six of them.
The soldiers were part of Operation Sentinel, launched in the wake of Islamist attacks in Paris in early 2015. The Levallois-Perret attack was the 15th on troops and police in the last two-and-a-half years, many of them Islamic State-inspired.