Paris knife attacker deliberately targeted French people: prosecutor

FEB 6, 2024 LISTEN

A Mali-born man suspected of injuring several people with a knife and hammer at a Paris railway station deliberately sought French people to attack, the Paris prosecutor said Tuesday.

The 32-year-old man went on a stabbing spree early Saturday, injuring at least three people at the Gare de Lyon station, which operates suburban, national and international routes to Switzerland and Italy.

The suspect's statements and the content of his phone "have led us to suspect that he did what he did to target French people because they belong to the French nation", prosecutor Laure Beccuau said in a statement.

French anti-terrorism prosecutors are not getting immediately involved.

Prosecutors are instead treating the case as attempted murder, suspecting that the man selected targets on the basis of their "race, ethnicity, nation or religion", Beccuau said, adding that the charge can be punished with life imprisonment.

A psychiatric evaluation has not shown any diminished criminal responsibility, the prosecutor said.

Prosecutors have said the suspect was to appear before an investigating magistrate Tuesday to potentially be charged with attempted murder.

One 66-year-old man remained in critical condition after the suspect stabbed him in the abdomen and hit him twice on the head with a hammer, Beccuau said.

Tiktok account

Two other people, one 57, the other in their 20s, were also injured when they intervened.

Officials said two other people were affected – a young woman whose bag was set on fire by the attacker and a security guard who also intervened.

The suspect had been a legal resident in Italy since 2016 and had travelled legally to France on 1 February, the prosecutor said.

According to Italian investigators, until 2021 the suspect lived in a centre run by a Catholic association in Montalto Dora, northeast of Turin.

The man had been monitored for psychiatric problems but never showed any violent tendencies, they told French news agency AFP.

Officials said a TikTok account had been opened in the name of the attacker. In a video dated 2 December, 2023, the author of the account wrote: "RIP in three months. May Allah welcome me into his paradise".

In other videos, the author expressed hostility towards France, referring to the French military operation in Mali to fight jihadists that ended in 2022.

(with AFP)