A man has been arrested after a car was rammed into a group of soldiers near Paris, injuring six of them.

It is unclear what motivated the driver, who was taken to hospital with bullet wounds after a calculated morning ambush and hours-long police chase.

But authorities said he deliberately accelerated his BMW into a cluster of soldiers in what prosecutors are investigating as a potential terrorist attack.

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President Emmanuel Macron’s government painted the incident in the suburb of Levallois-Perret as proof of the need to approve a new security law that critics fear infringes on liberties and puts the country in a permanent state of emergency.

Wednesday’s attack caused no deaths and hurt no civilians, but still set nerves on edge — the seventh attempted attack on security forces guarding France this year alone.

While others have targeted prominent sites like the Eiffel Tower, Wednesday morning’s attack hit the leafy, relatively affluent suburb of Levallois-Perret that is home to France’s main intelligence service, the DGSI, and its counter-terrorism service.

A French soldier patrols near the sceneA French soldier patrols near the scene (AP)

“We know it was a deliberate act,” Interior Minister Gerard Collomb said.

Defence Minister Florence Parly called it a reminder that extra security measures imposed in recent years are “more necessary than ever”.

On a quiet morning, the suspect was seen waiting in a black car in a cul-de-sac near the Levallois city hall and a building used as a staging point for soldiers in France’s Sentinelle operation to protect prominent sites, according to two police officials.

Police work on the scene where French soldiers were hit and injured by a vehicle in the western Paris suburb of Levallois-Perret (Kamil Zihnioglu/AP)Police work on the scene where French soldiers were hit and injured by a vehicle in the western Paris suburb of Levallois-Perret (Kamil Zihnioglu/AP)

A group of soldiers emerged from the building to board vehicles for a new shift when the car sped up and rammed into them, its force hurling the soldiers against their van, according to one official.

The interior minister said the car first approached slowly then sped up about five metres from its target.

A nearby resident described an ear-piercing scream of pain, then soldiers chasing after the fleeing car.

A French soldier stands near the scene where French soldiers were hit and injured by a vehicle in the western Paris suburb of Levallois-Perret (Kamil Zihnioglu/AP)A French soldier stands near the scene where French soldiers were hit and injured by a vehicle in the western Paris suburb of Levallois-Perret (Kamil Zihnioglu/AP)

Authorities checked video surveillance of the area and police fanned out and stopped numerous cars as they searched for the attacker. Most were released.

Then, on the A16 highway near the English Channel port of Calais, police stopped what the prime minister called the “principal suspect”.

Images of the arrest scene showed emergency vehicles surrounding a black BMW with a damaged windscreen, on a cordoned-off highway in the countryside.

Police officers opened fire during the arrest to subdue the man, and the suspect was injured along with an officer hit by a stray police bullet, according to a judicial official.

Heavily armed, masked police searched a building believed linked to the attacker in the Paris suburb of Bezons on Wednesday night. His identity was not released.