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TERRORISM

‘There were failings’: France admits flaws that failed to stop Paris police attacker

France's interior minister has acknowledged that officials should have kept a closer eye on the Paris police employee who stabbed four colleagues to death last week, after investigators found evidence he had supported an extreme version of Islam.

'There were failings': France admits flaws that failed to stop Paris police attacker
France's under pressure Interior Minister Christophe Castaner. Photo: AFP

“Obviously, there were failings,” Christophe Castaner told TF1 television, but he said he would not resign over the matter as some rightwing opponents have said he should.

Speaking separately on French radio on Monday morning Castaner insisted that there was a “disfunction” in the way warnings were made and acted on but that the failure to stop the attacker was not a “state scandal”.

He said the warnings that were made should have triggered a more in depth investigation of the knifeman.

His radicalisation did not trigger warnings at the right level and at the right time, Castaner admitted.

Castaner has come under fire after initially claiming that Mickael Harpon, a 45-year-old computer expert at the Paris police headquarters, had never given the “slightest reason for alarm” ahead of Thursday's attack.

Investigators later revealed that Harpon had in fact been in contact with adherents of Salafism, the ultra-conservative branch of Sunni Islam.

He had defended “atrocities committed in the name of that religion,” anti-terror prosecutor Jean-Francois Ricard said Saturday.

On Sunday, Castaner said Harpon had caused alarm among his colleagues as far back as 2015, when he defended the massacre of 12 people at the Charlie Hebdo newspaper by two brothers vowing allegiance to Al-Qaeda.

But even though a police official charged with investigating suspected radicalisation among the force questioned the colleagues, none of them wanted to file an official complaint.

“Apparently they decided not to make a report,” Castaner said. “The failure occurred at this moment.

“There was nothing in his personnel file that indicated he might be radicalised… If there had been a sign, maybe we could have avoided this,” he said.

In an interview with French radio on Monday Castaner said he wanted any warning about behavioural changes in any individual suspected of being radicalized to automatically trigger a formal investigation.

Castaner will face questioning by parliament's intelligence commission Tuesday over the attack, its president Christian Cambon said Sunday.

“We're going to try to find out what these failings were,” Cambon told AFP.


   
   

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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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