Sunday 20 October 2019

Four killed in knife attack at Paris police headquarters

An employee was reportedly responsible for the attack with the assailant shot dead at the scene.

Activity outside the police headquarters in Paris (Kamil Zihnioglu/AP)
Activity outside the police headquarters in Paris (Kamil Zihnioglu/AP)

By Sylvie Corbet and Lori Hinnant, Associated Press

A civilian employee raged through a Paris police headquarters with a knife, stabbing four colleagues to death before he was shot and killed.

The man, a technology administrator in the police intelligence unit, launched the attack in his office then moved to other parts of the large 19th century building across the street from Notre Dame Cathedral.

Three of the people he killed were police officers, the fourth an administrator, the Paris prosecutor said.

An officer stopped the attack when he shot the assailant in the compound’s courtyard.

The employee who carried out the attack had worked for the city’s police force since 2003 without ever arousing concerns, French interior minister Christophe Castaner said.

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Armed soldiers patrol after the incident in Paris (Kamil Zihnioglu/AP)

“There were no warning signs,” Mr Castaner said. “This man was known inside the computer department, he worked alongside his colleagues and never presented any behavioural difficulties.”

Paris prosecutor Remy Heitz said authorities opened a murder investigation, for the moment ruling out a terrorism inquiry. He said the 45-year-old assailant’s home was being searched.

Three of the victims were men and one was a woman, Mr Heitz said. A department employee wounded in the rampage underwent emergency surgery, Mr Castaner said.

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A helicopter is parked on the Pont Marie bridge after the incident at police headquarters (Kamil Zihnioglu/AP)

“It’s the worst scenario possible, an internal attack with colleagues working together,” said Philippe Capon of the UNSA police union.

Mr Capon cautioned against jumping to conclusions on the motive and said: “Nothing can be ruled out, including a personal issue.”

French media reported the employee carried out the attack with a ceramic knife.

The attack came a day after thousands of officers marched in Paris to protest low wages, long hours and increasing suicides in their ranks.

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Police officers demonstrating on Wednesday (Thibault Camus/AP)

President Emmanuel Macron stopped by police headquarters to show solidarity with officers and department employees, his office said.

The neighbourhood where the police compound is located, a busy tourist destination, was locked down, the Cite metro stop was closed and the bridge between Notre Dame and the headquarters building was blocked off.

“Paris weeps for its own this afternoon after this terrifying attack in the police headquarters. The toll is heavy, several officers lost their lives,” Mayor Anne Hidalgo tweeted.

Extremists have repeatedly targeted French police in France in recent years. In 2017, a gunman opened fire on the Champs-Elysees boulevard, killing one officer before he was shot to death.

In 2016, an attack inspired by the Islamic State group killed a police officer and his companion, an administrator, at their home in front of their child.

PA Media

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