Armed as­sailant mars Hebdo an­niver­sary

The at­tacker tried to en­ter a po­lice sta­tion in a fake sui­cide vest.

The Denver Post - - NEWS - By Cléophée De­moustier and An­thony Faiola

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

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