Paris police attacker had ‘radical vision of Islam’
PARIS (AFP) — A staffer at Paris police headquarters who stabbed four colleagues to death in a frenzied attack adhered to “a radical vision of Islam”, an anti-terror prosecutor said Saturday.
The 45-year-old computer expert had been in contact with members of Salafism, an ultra-conservative branch of Sunni Islam, and defended “atrocities committed in the name of that religion,” Jean-Francois Ricard told reporters.
Three police officers and an administrative worker — three men and one woman — died in the lunchtime attack on Thursday at the police headquarters, a stone’s throw from the Notre-Dame cathedral in the historic heart of Paris.
The assailant, named as Mickael Harpon, was shot dead by a policeman, an intern at police headquarters.
The incident sent shock waves through an embattled French police force already complaining of low morale.
On the morning of his “extremely violent” attack, Harpon bought two knives, a 33-centimetre long kitchen knife and an oyster knife which he kept hidden, Ricard said.
He showed “absolutely no signs of nervousness” as he circled back to police headquarters, according to CCTV footage examined by police, the prosecutor said.
The attack, from his return to the office, the killings and his death by police bullets, lasted seven minutes, Ricard said.
He first killed a 50-year old police major and a 38-year old guard who worked in the same office as Harpon and were having lunch at their desks.
He then went to another office on the same floor where he killed a 37-year old administrative agent.
Having failed to enter another office, which was locked, he went down into the courtyard where he stabbed a 39-year old policewoman who later died of her wounds.
He then injured two other people, before a policeman, an intern, killed him with two shots.
Shortly before, he had exchanged 33 text messages with his wife.
The messages exclusively concerned religion, and the attacker ended the conversation with “Allahu Akbar” (“God is greatest”) and told her to “follow our beloved prophet Mohammed and meditate on the Koran”, according to the prosecutor.
She was being held by police on Saturday.
Harpon, who supported the Charlie Hebdo attacks in 2015, had changed his attire in recent months, shunning “all Western clothes in favor of traditional garments to visit the mosque,” Ricard added.
He also wished to no longer “have certain kinds of contact with women.”
French President Emmanuel Macron, who has described the attack as a “true drama,” will lead tributes to the victims on Tuesday, the Elysee announced on Saturday.
Sources at the Paris prosecutor’s office said on Friday the case had been passed to the anti-terrorist prosecutor’s office PNAT after early enquiries suggested that the attacker, a convert to Islam, could have become radicalized.
Harpon, born on the French overseas territory of Martinique in the Caribbean, converted to Islam about 10 years ago, the prosecutor said.
He had no police record but was investigated for domestic violence in 2009.
Sources said he had worked in a section of the police service dedicated to collecting information on jihadist radicalization.