Mon, May 14, 2018 - Page 5 News List

Police seek clues after Paris stabbing

‘HE LOOKED CRAZY’:The IS claimed responsibility for the attack, but did not provide proof to back its claim, while Russia pressed for more information about the assailant

AFP, PARIS

French investigators were yesterday probing the background of a 20-year-old Frenchman born in Russia who killed one man and wounded four people during a stabbing spree, with sources close to the case saying he had been on a watch list of suspected extremists.

The Saturday night attack in a lively area of theaters and restaurants near the main opera house was the latest in a series of suspected extremist attacks in France that have killed about 245 people since 2015.

The attacker was shot and killed by police after an officer unsuccessfully tried to stop him with a Taser.

Judicial sources said the man was born in Chechnya, a Muslim-majority Russian republic which has been the scene of two bloody separatist wars since the 1990s.

Hundreds of Muslim militants from Chechnya have left to join armed groups in the Middle East, North Africa and other regions in the past few years.

The Russian embassy in Paris was pressing French officials for more information on the assailant, whose parents have been taken into custody for questioning, Russian news reports said.

Investigators have not yet said when the man arrived in France.

The man, born in November 1997, was on France’s so-called “S file” of people suspected of radicalized views who could pose security risks, the sources said, though he did not have a criminal record.

The Islamic State (IS) group claimed responsibility, saying one of its “soldiers” had carried out the attack, according to the SITE monitoring group, but provided no corroborating proof to back its assertion.

The attack was condemned by Hassen Chalghoumi, head of the Conference of French Imams.

“Last night’s attack reminds us how much our security, freedom and democracy have become targets for these people,” he said in a statement.

Witnesses described a wave of panic on rue Monsigny as people fled into bars and restaurants seeking cover as the man struck apparently at random, yelling “Allahu Akbar” (“God is great).

“I was taking orders and I saw a young woman trying to get into the restaurant in panic,” Jonathan, a waiter at a Korean restaurant, told repoters.

The woman was bleeding and a young man fended off the assailant who then ran away, he said.

“The attacker entered a shopping street, I saw him with a knife in his hand,” he said. “He looked crazy.”

Milan, 19, said he saw “several people in distress” including a woman with wounds to her neck and leg. “Firemen were giving her first aid. I heard two, three shots and a policeman told me that the man had been overpowered.”

A 29-year-old man was killed in the attack, while a 34-year-old Luxembourg man and a 54-year-old woman were seriously wounded and rushed to hospital.

A 26-year-old woman and a 31-year-old man were slightly wounded, but French Minister of the Interior Gerard Collomb later told reporters that all four were out of danger.

“I was on the cafe terrace, I heard three, four shots, it happened very fast,” 47-year-old Gloria said.

“The bartenders told us to come inside very quickly. Then I went out to see what was going on, and then I saw a man on the ground,” she added.

“France has once again paid the price in blood, but will not give an inch to the enemies of freedom,” French President Emmanuel Macron tweeted.

The attack again underscored the difficulty in keeping track of suspected radicals by police facing thousands of potential risks, either homegrown or who have immigrated to the country.

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