Friday 6 December 2019

French police double-killing suspect 'pledged allegiance to Islamic State'

Police officers at the scene in Magnanville, west of Paris (AP)
Police officers at the scene in Magnanville, west of Paris (AP)
French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve speaks to the media in Les Mureaux, west of Paris (AP)

A Frenchman suspected of killing two police officers declared his allegiance to Islamic State (IS) leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi and threatened to kill non-believers, according to Paris prosecutor Francois Molins.

Attacker Larossi Abballa made the declaration in exchanges with police during a stand-off on Monday night at a house in the Paris suburb of Magnanville, where a police commander and his partner were found dead.

Mr Molins said Abballa, who was also found dead in the house after the stand-off, responded to IS calls to kill non-believers and their families wherever they live.

The couple's three-year-old child was found unharmed in the property after the stand-off.

Abballa is said to have filmed the knife attack before posting it on Facebook Live.

A police official said that at one point in the video, the attacker puzzles over what to do with the child.

IS news agency Amaq cited an unnamed source as saying an IS fighter carried out the attack.

Prosecutor's office spokeswoman Agnes Thibault-Lecuivre said French authorities have "no reason" to doubt that claim.

Abballa had a list of targets, including journalists and public figures, according to Mr Molins.

Searches of Abballa's home had tuned up a list of "rappers, journalists, police officers and public personalities".

Mr Molins give no further detail on the list, or whether it had specific names.

Mr Molins said Abballa stabbed Jean-Baptiste Salvaing, 42, a police commander in the Paris suburb of Les Mureaux, outside his home on Monday night.

He then went inside and took Salvaing's partner and three-year-old son hostage. He killed the woman, who was a police administrator in the suburb of Mantes-la-Jolie, but did not harm the boy, Mr Molins said.

Abballa recorded a 12-minute video related to the attack and posted it on Facebook, Molins said, but he did not provide further details.

The prosecutor added Mr Molins said three people - aged 27, 29 and 44 - were detained as part of the investigation.

French president Francois Hollande said earlier that the incident was "incontestably a terrorist act", and that France faces a threat "of a very large scale".

The country has been on particularly high alert as it hosts the Euro 2016 football tournament, and is still under a state of emergency after the November IS attacks in Paris that killed 130 people.

Mr Hollande hosted an emergency security meeting on Tuesday.

He said: "France is not the only country concerned (by the terrorist threat), as we have seen, again, in the United States, in Orlando."

Abballa, 25, was from Mantes-la-Jolie and was sentenced in 2013 to three years in prison for recruiting fighters for jihad in Pakistan, according to two police officials.

A resident of the apartment building where Abballa lived, who did not want to give his name, said police had raided it early today.

A Facebook profile bearing the name Larossi Abballa - which vanished from the internet early Tuesday - showed a photo of a smiling, bearded man.

Two recent posts featured videos critical of Israel and Saudi Arabia. The last publicly available post was a mock-up of the European Championship logo, highlighting what the poster said were masonic and occult symbols.

"Some will say we see evil everywhere!" Abballa said in a message posted about 18 hours before the attack.

French interior minister Bernard Cazeneuve visited the police station in Les Mureaux where Mr Salvaing worked.

He said more than 100 people seen as potential threats have been arrested in France this year, including in recent weeks.

France, like other countries in Europe, has seen a series of stabbings aimed at police officers or soldiers and carried out by Muslim radicals.

Monday's attack has shaken police officers, and Mr Cazeneuve said they would be allowed to take home their service weapons.

"Today every police officer is a target," Yves Lefebvre of police union Unite SGP Police-FO said.

He said attackers are "professionalising" and can now find police in their homes.

In Paris, the Eiffel Tower was lit up on Monday night in the colours of the rainbow to honour victims of Saturday's mass shooting at a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida, that killed at least 49 people.

The gunman in that case declared his allegiance to IS in phone calls to police, but his motives remain unclear.

PA Media

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