An 84-year-old man accused of wounding two men in a shooting at a mosque in southern France wanted to avenge the burning of Notre-Dame cathedral in Paris, prosecutors said Tuesday, adding there were questions over his psychological health.
The attack, in the usually quiet city of Bayonne on Monday afternoon, further unsettled France which is currently engulfed in a sometimes bitter debate about the observance of Islam in the strictly secular country.
The shooting by Claude Sinke, who once had links to the main far-right party, came just hours after President Emmanuel Macron had urged Muslims to step up the fight against what he called Islamic "separatism".
The regional prosecutor said that said in questioning Sinke made clear he "wanted to avenge the destruction of the cathedral in Paris" which he blamed on Muslims.
Notre-Dame cathedral in Paris was badly damaged in a fire in April that investigators have said was an accident. There has never been any suggestion of intent by any party.
Prosecutor Marc Mariee said that Sinke was being examined by a psychologist to determine the extent of criminal responsibility. The "entire interrogation poses questions over the state of his psychological health," he said.
Mariee said he was also in constant touch with France's national anti-terror prosecutor who would decide if a terror investigation should be opened.
Sinke had stood as a candidate for far-right leader Marine Le Pen's National Rally in 2015 regional elections, but the party has since distanced itself from him.
Mike Bresson, deputy mayor of Sinke's home village, Saint-Martin-de-Seignanx, said he was known for his "verbal excesses".
He told AFP Sinke behaved "like someone with a psychological disturbance. He didn't like people from the left, nor the centre, and few of those on the right".
According to the Sud-Ouest local newspaper, Sinke had addressed an angry letter last week to Bayonne authorities and prosecutors, seeking to bring charges against Macron for "non-application of human rights".