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Bayonne attack: Bus driver left brain dead after 'dispute over face masks'

A bus driver in south-west France has been left brain dead after being assaulted in a dispute with passengers over wearing face masks, according to police sources.

The driver, in his fifties, was beaten and seriously injured in Bayonne after refusing to allow a man without a mask to board the bus.

The driver had also asked four other passengers, who were already on the bus without masks, to get off.

A man in his thirties was arrested on Sunday evening and four other individuals were taken into custody on Monday, Bayonne’s public prosecutor said.

Wearing a mask on public transport is compulsory in post-lockdown France.

The bus network, which serves Bayonne and the neighbouring towns of Biarritz and Anglet, was severely disrupted on Monday following the incident, according to the network’s website.

Many buses did not leave the depot on Monday morning, where several dozen drivers expressed their sadness and anger after the tragedy.

The mayors of Bayonne and nearby Anglet have assured drivers of their “full solidarity”.

“We have witnessed a particularly violent and barbaric act,” said Jean-René Etchegaray, Bayonne’s mayor.

Etchegaray added his hope “that the perpetrators will be brought to justice and that the punishment will be severe” to send “a significant sign to the entire population”.