Thursday 22 February 2018

Man who killed police chief warned Euros would be 'graveyard'

Larossi Abballa. Photo credit: Reuters
Larossi Abballa. Photo credit: Reuters

Henry Samuel

A Frenchman who murdered a police commander and his partner live on Facebook claimed he was answering Isil's call for lone wolf attacks in Ramadan, prosecutors said yesterday.

Larossi Abballa, a 25-year-old known to French security services, also reportedly warned that the Euro 2016 football tournament would become a "graveyard".

In a 12-minute broadcast, Abballa pledged allegiance to Isil, saying he was heeding the Islamist terror group's call to "kill infidels in their homes with their families", prosecutors said.

He did so using Facebook Live, a new application that allows users to stream video live to their followers, raising fears that terrorists will increasingly turn to such online streaming to broadcast their crimes in real time.

After being the last to leave prayers at a nearby mosque, Abballa repeatedly knifed the 42-year-old commander, named as Jean-Baptiste Salvaing, in the stomach outside his home.

He then barricaded himself inside the house, taking the policeman's partner, Jessica Schneider (36), and three-year-old son hostage. Ms Schneider, a police administrator, was found dead in the house with her throat cut.

The boy was unharmed but in "total shock", officials said. He was taken to a children's hospital.

The video, posted online as police surrounded the house, showed the suspect next to his victims, according to RFI, a French radio station. "I don't know what to do with him," the man is heard saying of the boy.

Abballa then warned: "We are going to turn the Euros into a graveyard."

After warning officers that he would blow the house up if they moved in, Abballa was finally shot dead at midnight by members of an elite police unit. He had shown "absolutely no sign of negotiating", a spokesman said.

Police found a hit list which included "rappers, journalists, police and public figures", according to Francois Molins, the Paris prosecutor. They also found three phones and knives, one covered in blood. In a nearby car was a Koran and a white djellaba, a Moroccan robe.

Three men aged 27, 29 and 44 were detained for questioning.

President Francois Hollande said the killings were "undeniably a terrorist act" and that the threat in France remained "very high".

Abballa had prayed in a mosque in the north-western Paris suburb of Mantes-La Jolie only hours before the gruesome murders.

Abballa's own home is a five-minute drive from the leafy street where his victims lived.

The mosque's rector, Mohamed Droussi, said that Abballa had appeared calm.

"He was the last to leave and he was sitting there reading the Koran when we wanted to close, so we asked him to go and he did, quietly."

Abballa appeared to be "an ordinary, calm young man", he added. "There was no indication that he had been radicalised. I had no idea if he had or not. I didn't know what was going on inside his head."

However, the attacker was known to French authorities. In September 2013, he was sentenced to three years in prison with six months suspended, for seeking to send would-be jihadists to the Pakistan-Afghan border area.

During the inquiry, investigators noted that he exclaimed "I'm thirsty for blood," when chatting to fellow jihadist hopefuls who trained by "slitting rabbits' throats" in a suburban park.

During his trial, his lawyer, Herve Denis, said he appeared "intellectually limited, basic, easy to influence. In no way a decision-maker." After being freed, he kept to himself, never skipped parole and opened a delivery service of halal sandwiches called Doctor Food, which he promoted on the internet.

But in February, his name was among a string of suspects anti-terror judges started investigating for allegedly seeking to send jihadist recruits to Syria.

However, phone taps provided "no proof" that he was planning an imminent attack, according to Mr Molins.

The murders constitute the first militant strike on French soil since the government imposed a state of emergency after attacks on Paris in November that killed 130 people.

With police unions yesterday expressing fear that Isil operatives were "professionalising" their attacks by targeting officers' homes, Bernard Cazeneuve, the interior minister, said police would be allowed to take home their weapons.

Neighbours of the murdered couple were shocked and afraid. "My son is also a policeman and he was a friend of the couple," said one, who gave her name as Huguette (75). "They were together last Saturday at a party. My son has to live with fear now. It's horrible."

In a separate incident on Tuesday, a 19-year-old woman was seriously injured in Rennes, western France, when a 32-year-old man with a history of mental illness stabbed her three times in the wrist and stomach, saying he had heard voices ordering him to make a "sacrifice during Ramadan".

He handed over his knife after the attack. An inquiry for attempted murder has been opened. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent

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