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TERRORISM

Paris: France says Notre-Dame hammer attack was ‘isolated incident’

The attack on a French police officer outside Paris's famed Notre Dame cathedral by a hammer-wielding man was an "isolated act," government spokesman Christophe Castaner said Wednesday.

Paris: France says Notre-Dame hammer attack was 'isolated incident'
Photo: AFP
Tuesday's attacker had “never showed any sign of radicalisation,” he told RTL radio, but stressed that the investigation was at an early stage.
 
Castaner said the man, who was shot and injured by police, named as Farid Ikken “had at no moment showed signs of radicalisation.”
 
On Wednesday a source close to the investigation confirmed to AFP that the attacker had pledged allegiance to the Islamic State group in a video found at his apartment.
 
The 22-year-old police officer sustained minor neck injuries in the assault, which comes with France on high alert after jihadists killed seven people in London on Saturday.
 
The video below taken from surveillance cameras, shows the moment the attacker struck, before he was neutralized by a police officer.
 
The incident was over in a matter of a seconds.
 
 
Documents found on the attacker identified him as Farid Ikken a 40-year-old Algerian who was a doctoral student in information science at a university in the east of France.
 
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Photo: AFP
 
The suspect later claimed to be a “soldier of the caliphate” of the Islamic State group, according to a source close to the investigation.
 
The policeman's colleague opened fire on the man, hitting him in the chest in panicked scenes around the Gothic cathedral that is one of France's most visited tourist attractions.
 
The attacker lay bleeding on the ground as police sealed off the area and searched for possible accomplices.
 
About an hour after the attack he was taken to hospital and police declared the situation to be under control.
 
Interior Minister Gerard Collomb said the man, who was also carrying kitchen knives, had shouted “this is for Syria” as he lunged at the officer.
 
Anti-terrorist prosecutors were put in charge of the investigation.
 
A witness told AFP he heard someone “shout very loudly”.
 
“Then there was a crowd surge and people panicked. I heard two shots and saw a man lying on the ground in a pool of blood,” he said.
 
On Tuesday evening a group of 15 heavily armed elite police officers searched student accommodation in the suburbs of Paris, where the suspect rented a studio, an AFP journalist said.
 
A tenant of the building described him as “very quiet”.
 
France is still under the state of emergency imposed after the November 2015 attacks in Paris, when Islamic State jihadists killed 130 people in a night of carnage at venues across the city.

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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