Friend of Paris knife at­tacker handed charges in ram­page

Imperial Valley Press - - SPORTS -

PARIS (AP) — A close friend of the young man who car­ried out a deadly knife at­tack in Paris be­fore be­ing killed by po­lice last week­end was handed pre­lim­i­nary charges Thurs­day as a lead­ing sus­pect in the ram­page.

The Paris pros­e­cu­tor’s of­fice said the friend, iden­ti­fied as Ab­dul Hakim A., is ac­cused of as­so­ci­a­tion with ter­ror­ist crim­i­nals with plans to at­tack peo­ple. He was put in pro­vi­sional de­ten­tion pend­ing fur­ther in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

France’s anti-ter­ror­ism pros­e­cu­tor Fran­cois Molins said in his first news con­fer­ence since the Satur­day night at­tack that two fe­male friends of the men were ar­rested ear­lier in the day in the Paris re­gion. He did not elab­o­rate.

Khamzat Az­i­mov, who was born in the Rus­sian repub­lic of Chech­nya, killed one per­son and wounded five oth­ers with a knife in the ram­page through streets near the Paris Garnier Opera house. He was killed by po­lice as he ad­vanced on them, say­ing “Shoot! Shoot! Shoot!”

Pres­i­dent Em­manuel Macron was meet­ing Thurs­day with the three po­lice of­fi­cers who in­ter­vened dur­ing the at­tack.

Molins said Az­i­mov’s par­ents, who were de­tained shortly af­ter the stab­bing spree, rec­og­nized their son in a video declar­ing al­le­giance to the Is­lamic State group that was re­leased a day later.

In the post­hu­mous video, re­leased by Is­lamic State group’s Aa­maq news agency, Az­i­mov called on Mus­lims in Europe to “take ac­tion in the land of dis­be­liev­ers” if they can’t travel to the crumbling caliphate in Iraq and Syria, which has been pounded by coali­tion forces. He said French cit­i­zens should pres­sure their gov­ern­ment “if you want it (at­tacks) to end.”

Az­i­mov had French and Rus­sian citizenship, Molins said. His friend Ab­dul Hakim A. also was from Chech­nya.

Az­i­mov and Ab­dul Hakim A. - both 20 - were on a watch list for po­ten­tial rad­i­cal­iza­tion, Molins said. Ab­dul Hakim A. was placed on a sec­ond alert list in Oc­to­ber for preven­tion of rad­i­cal­iza­tion with a ter­ror­ist char­ac­ter.

Az­i­mov was placed on the list con­tain­ing thou­sands of names be­cause of his links to a young woman that Ab­dul Hakim A. mar­ried be­fore she tried to go to Syria.

The pros­e­cu­tor said Ab­dul Hakim A., ar­rested a day af­ter the at­tack in Stras­bourg where Az­i­mov had pre­vi­ously lived, de­nied con­tact­ing or see­ing his friend for sev­eral months. The Az­i­mov fam­ily had moved to the north­ern 18th dis­trict of Paris last July.

In­ves­ti­ga­tors de­tained Ab­dul Hakim A. be­cause of his mar­riage to the young woman headed to Syria, Molins said.

“Ab­dul Hakim A. came to Paris from Jan. 8- 12, 2017, ac­com­pa­nied by Khamzat Az­i­mov, in or­der to get a reli­gious wed­ding with this young woman, the eve of her de­par­ture for Syria,” the pros­e­cu­tor said.

Study­ing Ab­dul Hakim A.’ s com­mu­ni­ca­tions, Molins said in­ves­ti­ga­tors noted much ac­tiv­ity on en­crypted net­works, in­clud­ing in the night af­ter Az­i­mov’s ram­page.

IS sym­pa­thiz­ers have killed more than 200 peo­ple in France in re­cent years - 130 of them in an co­or­di­nated at­tack on Paris rev­el­ers in 2015.

The lat­est at­tack Satur­day oc­curred less than two months af­ter a mur­der­ous ex­trem­ist ram­page in the south­ern town of Car­cas­sonne, a haunt for tourists. There, a French­man of Moroc­can ori­gin - also on a watch list - killed three peo­ple with a gun, two in a su­per­mar­ket, in­clud­ing an of­fi­cer who ex­changed him­self for a hostage.

Az­i­mov had been study­ing to be­come a nurse af­ter fail­ing to gain en­trance to med­i­cal school, Molins said.

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