Friday 22 September 2017

‘Semi-comatose’ man arrested on suspicion of Paris newspaper attack

French Interior Minister Manuel Valls (C) and Christian Flaesch (center R), director of the Paris' judiciary police, attend a news conference at the headquarters of the Paris police
French Interior Minister Manuel Valls (C) and Christian Flaesch (center R), director of the Paris' judiciary police, attend a news conference at the headquarters of the Paris police
French Interior Minister Manuel Valls (C) and Christian Flaesch (center R), director of the Paris' judiciary police, attend a news conference at the headquarters of the Paris police

John Lichfield

A 52-year-old former anarchist activist, Abdelhakim Dekhar, will be formally accused on Thursday of the gun attack on the French newspaper Liberation on Monday.

Mr Dekhar was arrested on Wednesday night as he lay semi-conscious in a car in an underground car-park near Paris after taking an overdose. Authorities said that his DNA matches traces left by the gunman who grievously wounded a young photographer in the lobby of Liberation on Monday morning.

Mr Dekhar was jailed for four years in 1998 for acting as an accessory to a young anarchist couple, dubbed the "French Bonnie and Clyde".  The couple killed three policemen and a taxi-driver during a failed robbery and car chase in October 1994. 

Since he left prison, Mr Dekhar is believed to have spent many years abroad. He was arrested on Wednesday evening after a tip-off from a man who recognised him in security camera footage released by the authorities.

Heavily armed police at first  raided a hotel at Bois-Colombes, six miles north west of Paris. Mr Dekhar was found soon afterwards slumped in a "semi-comatose state" in an underground car-park with an open packet of pills nearby.

The interior minister, Manuel Valls, saluted the work of police during a  72-hour nationwide manhunt and said that "all the facts that we have today point to (Dekhar's) involvement".  His motives for the attack on Liberation - and other attacks without casualties at a bank headquarters on Monday and a TV station last Friday - remain unclear.  Investigators are waiting for Mr Dekhar to recover from his overdose in a secure hospital before questioning him later on Thursday.

Mr Valls revealed that police had found letters and other documents in which Mt Dekhar attempted to explain the attacks. They were still being studied, police sources said, but were "rather confused". There was nothing which suggested a political motive, they said.

The suspect was located after a tip-off from a member of the public who said that he had given shelter  "from time to time" to a man resembling the gunman in CCTV footage. The informant said that Dekhar had spoken to him about the shootings and had admitted to "doing something stupid".

Mr Dekhar ended his prison sentence in the so-called "Rey-Maupin" affair in 1999. He was convicted in 1998 of helping to supply guns to a young student couple, Florence Rey and Audry Maupin, who shot dead three policemen and a taxi-driver during a politically-motivated robbery. Although given a four year sentence, most of the term had already been served awaiting trial.

Both Mr Dekhar and the couple were involved in anarchist or extreme left movements which wanted to provoke a revolution in France. Mr Maupin died of wounds that he received during a shoot-out with police. Ms Rey left prison in 2009

At 10.15 on Monday morning, a man dressed in a long khaki coat and light blue jeans, burst into the lobby area of the left-wing newspaper Liberation in a converted garage near the Place de la Republique in central Paris. He immediately fired two shots from a double-barrelled, pump action hunting rifle into the back of a young photographer who was entering a lift.

The man fled without saying a word. The young photographer, named only as Cesar, 23, was gravely wounded. One bullet passed through a lung. He was said to be recovering slowly on Wednesday, but still in a critical condition, after a series of operations at the La Pitie Salpatriere hospital.

Matching DNA samples were found on bullet cases at Liberation and cartridges ejected from a gun by a man who menaced staff, without shooting, at BFM TV last Friday. Matching traces were also found on cartridges left on the ground outside the headquarters of the Societe Generale bank, in the La Defense office district, where a gunman fired random shots at windows 90 minutes after the attack on Liberation.

nother DNA sample was found on the door handle of a car which the the gunman hijacked after the shooting at la Defense. No match was found with any of the more than the 2,000,000 people in the French national DNA database because Dekhar left prison before such records were started.

Independent News Service

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