Claude Sinké is an 84-year-old man accused of wounding two Muslim worshippers in a shooting outside of a mosque in Bayonne in France. Sinke is a former far-right political candidate and a member of Marine Le Pen’s National Front party. He failed in his bid to win a seat for the nationalist party in local elections in 2015 in the southwestern France region where he lives.
Sinké is also accused of trying to burn down the mosque by setting a fire at the front door of the building. Police say he then shot two men, ages 74 and 78, seriously injuring them. The two men were taken to a local hospital. Sinké fled from the scene and was taken into custody at his home in the village of Saint-Martin-de-Seignanx in Les Landes, which is north of Bayonne.
Sinké is facing two charges of attempted murder, prosecutors announced. According to police, two gas cylinders and a can full of gasoline were found at the scene and had been used in the attack. Photos and video from the scene show that the door to the mosque was burned.
Here’s what you need to know about Claude Sinké:
1. Claude Sinké Was Trying to Set the Mosque on Fire When the 2 Men Confronted Him & He Shot Them, Authorities Say
According to The Telegraph, Claude Sinké launched his attack on the Bayonne mosque on Monday afternoon about 3 p.m. The 84-year-old “suspect threw an incendiary device at the mosque and then drove away. He was apparently trying to set fire to the mosque when two worshippers intervened and he shot them,” police spokesman Patrice Peyruqueou told The Telegraph.
According to police, Sinké also set a vehicle on fire before fleeing in his own car. The two victims were taken to a local hospital and authorities say they are in serious, but stable, condition and are expected to survive. Their names have not been made public.
One of the victims was shot in the neck and the other was shot in the arm and chest.
A source told The Telegraph, “There was widespread panic at the mosque. There were a lot of people inside at the time.” Sinké was later found at his home and admitted to the attack, according to police.
President Emmanuel Macron issued a statement calling it a “heinous” attack and said his thoughts are with the victims, their families and those who were at the mosque. He added, “The Republic will never tolerate hatred. Everything will be done to punish the perpetrators and protect our compatriots of the Muslim faith.”
Interior Minister Christophe Castaner tweeted, “My first thoughts go to the injured and their families. Solidarity and support to the Muslim community. I realize to what extent they are shocked and frightened.”
2. He Told Investigators He Wanted to Avenge the Destruction of the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, But There Has Been No Evidence the Fire at the Catholic Church Was Arson
Claude Sinké told investigators his motive was to avenge the destruction of the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, which was heavily damaged by a fire in April, according to The Daily Mail. He told prosecutors that the fire was “caused by Muslims,” even though there is no evidence or legitimate accusations supporting that. The fire is suspected of being accidental and not caused by arson. He was acting because of a conspiracy theory, prosecutors told The Daily Mail.
Local prosecutor Marc Mariee told The Daily Mail that the suspect said he did not intend to kill anyone, and “explains his behavior by wanting to avenge the destruction of Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris.”
According to authorities, Sinké does not have a prior criminal record and he was not on the radar of any law enforcement or intelligence agencies in France. Police have said his psychological health and whether he has any history of mental illness will be part of the investigation.
3. Sinké Was One of Thousands of Local Candidates for National Front in 2015 & the Party’s Leader Says the Attack Was ‘Contrary to All the Values Upheld by Our Movement’
Claude Sinké was part of the far-right National Front party in 2015. The party has since been renamed as the National Rally. He was one of many local candidates for the party in the 2015 elections.
“This man was effectively a part of the 8,000 candidates we had for the  regional elections,” National Rally vice president and European Parliament MP Jordan Bardella said, according to CNN. “I can assure you that nothing throughout his path would’ve suggested that he was crazy. He was dismissed in 2015 after the regional elections for which he was a candidate.” Bardella added he was, “obviously not a part of the movement anymore.”
Marine Le Pen, the party’s leader, issued a statement calling it “an unspeakable act,” and said, it was “absolutely contrary to the values of our movement.”
4. He Served in the Military, Has Worked as a Sculptor & Has Self-Published Books
According to The Daily Mail, prosecutors said, “‘It is believed that Sinke may have spent time in the military, and had strong far-right sympathies.” He attended military school, according to his Facebook page.
His Facebook page shows that he has worked as a sculptor and is retired. His Facebook page also says he was married in 1955. It is not clear if he is still with his wife.
Sinké is also a self-published author. He said on Facebook in a 2014 post about his book, titled “France with open heart or human misery,” that, “Human misery is an inexhaustible subject and I am not a fine psychologist to have the claim to go around it. I would therefore focus on dealing with some aspects of the relationship between the dominant and the domines.”
5. Sinké Is a Fan of Far-Right Writer Eric Zemmour, Who Has a History of Racist, Anti-Immigrant & Islamaphobic Statements
Sinké is a fan of French far-right writer and political commentator Eric Zemmour, who has generated controversy with racist, anti-immigrant and Islamophobic statements, according to EN24 News.
Sinké said in a Facebook post in 2014, “Some who have not read me call me a racist, or a manipulation, they are not many…. on the other hand, the majority of my readers have more positive opinions ex: ‘even if I do not subscribe to all your proposals or Steps of this book, I appreciate the tone and the ability to get the attention of the reader’ says one of my readers.”