Armed assailant mars Hebdo anniversary
The attacker tried to enter a police station in a fake suicide vest.
paris» An assailant carrying a butcher knife and wearing what appeared to be a fake suicide vest was shot and killed by police Thursday, marring the one-year anniversary of a terror siege in a city once again on edge after attacks last month.
The attacker also carried a paper with the Islamic State flag and a handwritten note in Arabic claiming responsibility for the act, according to a statement from French police.
Investigators were exploring possible links to a “terrorist undertaking,” but the statement gave no further details.
French officials have identified the assailant’s fingerprints as matching those of Sallah Ali, who was born in 1995 in Morocco. He was homeless at one point and had a criminal record as a thief.
The attack came as France marked the anniversary of a terror rampage that began with gunmen storming the satirical publication Charlie Hebdo. Authorities said the assailant tried to enter a police station in the northern Barbès neighborhood of the city’s 18th Arrondissement shortly before noon.
A bomb squad examined the body for possible explosives after police spotted what appeared to be wires under his camouflage jacket. The police statement later described it as a “fake suicide vest.”
Photos posted on social media showed the suspect — who had called out “Allahu Akbar” as he tried to enter the police station — lying dead on the sidewalk in his jacket and blue jeans.
The Interior Minister spokesman, Pierre Henri Brandet, said it appeared the suspect acted alone. “But,” he added, “we cannot rule out the possibility of complicity.”
The incident occurred shortly after French President François Hollande paid tribute to the country’s emergency services, which have been called on in recent months to deal with a string of terror-related cases.
“You protect the French people. You also protect their way of life, their freedom,” Hollande said. “This way of life, that’s what the terrorists wanted to attack. Because joy, sharing, culture inspire hatred in them. Never, undoubtedly for decades, has your mission been more necessary.”
Rake Polonyi, a 30-year-old teacher who lives near the police station targeted by the assailant, said she was in her living room when she heard shouting from the street.
“I looked from my window and I saw two policemen shouting at a man who was running toward them,” she said. “When the man was 2 meters away from them, they shot him. He collapsed.”
Hours later, she and other neighbors were still being asked to remain inside their homes.
“There is a lot of tension,” Polonyi said. “We can’t leave our home.”
The attack came exactly one year after two brothers and Islamist extremists — Said and Cherif Kouachi — stormed the Charlie Hebdo offices in Paris, opening fire with machine guns, killing 11 people. A total of 16 people were killed over three days of violence.
In November, a terror cell unleashed a rampage in Paris, killing 130 people in the worst attack on French soil since World War II.
Mastioucha Peres lights candles at a gathering that marks one year after the attacks on Charlie Hebdo in Paris. Francois Mori, AP