Attempted attack came a year after ‘Charlie Hebdo’ massacre
A man carrying a butcher’s knife and wearing a fake explosive vest tried to attack a Paris police station, a year almost to the minute after two Islamic extremists burst into the offices of Charlie Hebdo and unleashed a bloody attack 12 months ago.
The attacker, Sallah Ali, who was born in the Moroccan city of Casablanca in 1995, was killed by police. He was homeless and was known to police in southern France.
The Paris prosecutor’s anti-terrorism unit opened an investigation after what officials described as an attempted attack on the police station in the city’s north.
Ali had a conviction for theft and had been homeless.
Found on the man’s body was a mobile phone, a piece of paper with an emblem of Islamic State, and “an unequivocal written claim of responsibility in Arabic”.
The prosecutor’s office did not provide details about what the claim meant.
France has been under a state of emergency since a series of attacks claimed by IS killed 130 people in Paris on November 13.
— RT (@RT_com) January 7, 2016
Tensions increased this week as the anniversary of the January attacks approached.
Soldiers were posted in front of schools and security forces were more evident than usual amid a series of tributes to the dead.
Officials said the man shot dead yesterday threatened officers at the entrance of a police station near the Montmartre neighbourhood, home to the Sacre Coeur Cathedral.
Just moments before, French President François Hollande, speaking in a different location, paid respects to officers fallen in the line of duty.
In a statement, Paris prosecutor Francois Molins said a terrorism inquiry had been opened into the attack.
“[The man] shouted ‘Allahu akbar’ and had wires protruding from his clothes. That’s why the police officer opened fire,” a police official said.
Police do not believe anyone else was involved.
Alexis Mukenge, who saw the shooting from inside another building, said police told the man, “Stop. Move back”, adding that officers fired twice and the man fell to the ground.
The Goutte d’Or neighbourhood in Paris’ 18th arrondissement was briefly locked down and two metro lines running through the area were halted. They reopened after about two hours.
Two schools were under lockdown, and police cleared out hundreds of people in the area. Shops were ordered closed and shop owners hastily rolled down metal shutters.
Nora Borrias was unable to get to her home in the neighbourhood because of the barricades. Shaken by the incident, she said “it’s like the Charlie Hebdo affair isn’t over”.
Hollande said earlier that a “terrorist threat” would continue to weigh on France.
The government has announced measures extending police powers to allow officers to use their weapons to “neutralise someone who has just committed one or several murders and is likely to repeat these crimes”.
At 11.35am on January 7, 2015, two French-born brothers killed 11 people at the building where Charlie Hebdo operated, as well as a Muslim policeman outside.
Over the next two days, an accomplice shot a policewoman to death and then stormed a kosher supermarket, killing four hostages.
A total of 17 people died, as did all three gunmen.
Hollande called for better surveillance of “radicalised” citizens who have joined IS or other militant groups in Syria and Iraq when they return to France.
“We must be able to force these people — and only these people — to fulfil certain obligations and if necessary to put them under house arrest... because they are dangerous,” he said.
Hollande said officers die in the line of duty “so that we can live free”.
Following the attacks, the government announced it planned to give police better equipment and hire more intelligence agents.
France has been on high alert ever since, and was struck again on November 13 by extremists in attacks that killed 130 people at a concert hall and in bars and restaurants.
Laurent Sourisseau, the editor-in-chief of Charlie Hebdo and cartoonist who is better known as Riss, told France Inter radio “security is a new expense for the newspaper budget”.
“This past year we’ve had to invest nearly €2m to secure our office, which is an enormous sum,” he said.
“We have to spend hundreds of thousands on surveillance of our offices, which wasn’t previously in Charlie’s budget, but we had an obligation so that employees feel safe and can work safely.”
After the attacks, people around the world embraced the expression “Je suis Charlie” to express solidarity with the slain journalists, targeted for its caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad.
“It’s a phrase that was used during the march as a sign of emotion or resistance to terrorism,” said Charlie Hebdo cartoonist Corinne Rey — known as Coco.
“And little by little, I realised that ’I am Charlie’ was misused for so many things. And now I don’t really know what it means.”
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