Barbes shooting: Witnesses accuse police of 'panicking' amid conflicting reports from Paris

Authorities announce they are treating incident as a terrorist attack after Isis flag found on body of man shot by police

John Lichfield
Thursday 07 January 2016 17:48 GMT
Police guard the streets of Paris following the incident
Police guard the streets of Paris following the incident

Twelve months almost to the minute after the jihadist massacre at Charlie Hebdo magazine, a young man wearing a fake explosives belt was shot dead outside a police station in Paris today.

The dead man was provisionally identified as Salah Alli, 20, a Moroccan of no fixed abode, who was arrested for questioning about a robbery in the south of France in 2013.

French authorities have announced that they were treating the incident as a terrorist attack - not the action of an unbalanced individual. The Paris prosecutor François Molins said that a copy of the Isis flag and a “clear threat” in Arabic had been found in a document on the man’s body.

The document pledged allegiance to the Isis leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi and called for “vengeance” for “deaths in Syria”.

Paris police station shooting

After the shooting, the body of a bald man wearing blue jeans and a grey parka jacket, lay spread-eagled and uncovered in the Rue de la Goutte d’Or in the 18th arrondssment for more than an hour. A small robot on wheels, equipped with a camera, was sent out from the police station to investigate the corpse.

French authorities said that the man was carrying no identity papers and had not yet been identified. A mobile telephone found on his body was being examined.

There were conflicting reports of what happened at the entrance to a local police post in the Barbès district of northern Paris.

A police spokesmen said that the man in his 20’s behaved in a threatening way and made a movement towards wires protruding from his jacket. He was immediately shot five times by one of the police officers standing guard outside the building.

Bomb disposal experts later discovered that the wires were attached to a package taped inside his jacket which contained no explosives. A kitchen chopping knife was found in the gutter nearby.

Eye-witnesses gave a different account. Zak, a 29-year-old man who was sitting on a café terrace, told the newspaper Le Parisien that the man appeared “agitated” but not threatening. He did not seem to be armed and was backing away when police opened fire.

“In my opinion, the police panicked,” he said. “Then they started screaming at everyone to clear the area.”

Alexis Mukenge, who saw the shooting from a nearby building, told the 24 hour TV channel iTele that police shouted at the man: “Stop. Move back.” Mr Mukenge said that officers fired and the man fell to the ground.

Police sources said that the man had shouted “Allahou Akbar” (God is greatest) before reaching for the wires protruding from his jacket. Zak and other eye-witnesses interviewed by French media said that they had heard nothing.

Originally the French interior ministry said that the attacker had slightly wounded one of the policemen outside the station with the kitchen knife. This statement was later withdrawn.

Paris was on high alert for a possible terrorist attack today – the first anniversary of the jihadiust attack at Charlie Hebdo magazine in which 12 people died. The incident took place at 11.52am - one year and seven minutes after the Kouachi brothers’ assault on the satitrical magazine.

Children in two local schools were ordered to stay indoors. Three Metro lines were temporarily halted.

A ministry of the interior spokesman, Pierre-Henry Brandet, said initially: “It is too early to seak of a terrorsist act… At this stage, we are treating it as an act of aggression.”

Mr Brandet said that that police do not believe that anyone else was involved.

However, the Paris prosecutor. Mr Molins, said that investigations had been handed over to the police anti-terrorist unit.

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