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TERRORISM

Man behind French police killings had jihadist links

The attacker who murdered a policeman and his partner near Paris was known for his jihadist links, it has been reported.

Man behind French police killings had jihadist links
Larossi Abballa, the suspect behind the 'cowardly terrorist murder' of a French policeman and his wife. Photo: AFP

A man suspected to have killed a French policeman and his partner in a terror-linked attack had been sentenced in 2013 for taking part in a jihadist organisation with links to Pakistan, sources close to the probe said on Tuesday.

The policeman and his partner, who also worked as an official in a police station, were killed at their home in the northwestern Paris suburb of Magnanville late Monday.

The attacker was identified as Frenchman, 25-year-old Larossi Abballa. He had claimed allegiance to the Islamic State group, sources close to the investigation said earlier.

Abballa had reportedly been sentenced to a three-year term — six months of which were suspended — for “criminal association with the aim of preparing terrorist acts,” in a trial with seven other defendants.

Later AFP reported that he was part of an investigation over a French network that was involved in sending fighters out to Syria.

Abballa was also known to police for several other non-terrorist related criminal offences. Sources in the intelligence services have told Le Parisien newspaper that Abballa, who was killed in the police raid, did not appear to be a threat.

Parisian criminal lawyer Hervé Denis, who defended one of the other defendants involved in the Pakistani jihadist network in 2013, told l’Express newspaper that Abballa was “neither intelligent nor brilliant.”
 
“It was a network of lame ducks with intellectually weak individuals as recruits,” he said.
 
(AFP)
 
Abballa lived in nearby Mantes-la-Jolie, where the policeman had previously worked and where the man's wife worked as a police official. On Tuesday morning raids were carried out at his home.

Abballa had claimed allegiance to the Islamic State group, sources close to the investigation said earlier.

France-based Jihadist specialist David Thomson said the attacker filmed his victims and posted images of them to his Facebook page.

He also posted a 15 minute video in which he claimed responsibility for the attack, Thomson said. On Tuesday morning  the Facebook account was suspended. 

At the start of the recording, the 25-year-old convicted radical swears allegiance to Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.

He then calls on other Muslims to attack “police, journalists, public figures, prison guards and rappers,” listing around a dozen well-known figures by name.

“We will turn the Euro into a graveyard,” he threatened, four days after the start of the football championships in a country on high alert after last November's jihadist carnage in Paris.

On Tuesday President Francois Hollande met with Prime Minister Manuel Valls, Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve and Justice Minister Jean-Jacques Urvoas.

Cazeneuve has described the killing as an “appalling terrorist act. and said that more arrests would be made in the hunt for any accomplices.

The minister then defended the work of French intelligence services saying that 100 potential suspects had been arrested in 2016.

“This highlights the intense activities of the counter-terrorist services,” he said.

Witnesses told investigators the man may have shouted “Allahu akbar” (God is greatest) as he stabbed the policeman repeatedly outside his home before holing up inside with the woman and the couple's three-year-old son.

Loud detonations were heard at the scene as elite RAID police moved in following failed negotiations with the attacker.

According to reports the attacker only wanted to talk about religion with police, who refused and therefor decided to launch the raid, in which the attacker was killed.

During those negotiations however he claimed allegiance to Isis, sources close to the inquiry told AFP.

The couple's toddler son was “in shock but unharmed,” a prosecutor added, saying the boy was receiving medical attention.

A news agency linked to Isis said the attack had been carried out by an “Islamic State fighter”, days after posting a similar claim following the massacre at a gay club in Orlando, Florida.

TERRORISM

US vice president lays wreaths at site of 2015 Paris terror attacks

US Vice President Kamala Harris and French Prime Minister Jean Castex laid wreaths at a Paris cafe and France's national football stadium Saturday six years since deadly terror attacks that left 130 people dead.

US vice president lays wreaths at site of 2015 Paris terror attacks
US Vice President Kamala Harris and her husband Doug Emhoff lay flowers after ceremonies at Le Carillon bar and Le Petit Cambodge restaurant, at which 130 people were killed during the 2015 Paris terror attacks. Photo: Sarahbeth Maney/POOL/AFP

The attacks by three separate teams of Islamic State group jihadists on the night of November 13, 2015 were the worst in France since World War II.

Gunmen mowed down 129 people in front of cafes and at a concert hall in the capital, while a bus driver was killed after suicide bombers blew themselves up at the gates of the stadium in its suburbs.

Harris, wrapping up a four-day trip to France, placed a bouquet of white flowers in front of a plaque honouring the victims outside a Paris cafe.

Castex attended a minute of silence at the Stade de France football stadium, along with Paris mayor Anne Hidalgo, before laying wreaths at the sites of the other attacks inside Paris.

In front of the Bataclan concert hall, survivors and relatives of the victims listened to someone read out the names of each of the 90 people killed during a concert there six years ago.

Public commemorations of the tragedy were called off last year because of the coronavirus pandemic.

“Last year we weren’t allowed to come and we all found it really tough,” said Bruno Poncet, who made it out alive of the Bataclan.

But he said the start of a trial over the attacks in September meant that those attending the commemoration this year felt more united.

‘Overcome it all’

“We’ve really bonded thanks to the trial,” he said. “During previous commemorations, we’d spot each other from afar without really daring to speak to each other. We were really shy. But standing up in court has really changed everything.”

The marathon trial, the biggest in France’s modern legal history, is expected to last until May 2022.

Twenty defendants are facing sentences of up to life in prison, including the sole attacker who was not gunned down by police, Salah Abdeslam, a French-Moroccan national who was captured in Brussels. Six of the defendants are being tried in absentia.

Poncet said he felt it was crucial that he attend the hearings. “I can’t possibly not. It’s our lives that are being discussed in that room, and it’s important to come to support the others and to try to overcome it all.”

Survivors have taken to the witness stand to recount the horror of the attacks, but also to describe life afterwards.

Several said they had been struggling with post-traumatic stress disorder, grappling with survivor’s guilt, or even feeling alienated from the rest of society.

Saturday’s commemorations are to wrap up with a minute of silence at the Stade de France in the evening before the kick-off for a game between France and Kazakhstan.

It was during a football match between France and Germany that three suicide bombers blew themselves up in 2015.

Then-French president Francois Hollande was one of the 80,000 people in the crowd, before he was discreetly whisked away to avoid triggering mass panic.

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