Paris attack: Knifeman who killed one and injured four was French national born in Chechnya

‘France once again paid the price of blood, but will not yield an inch to the enemies of freedom’

Chloe Farand
Sunday 13 May 2018 18:27
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Armed police guard corden after Paris stabbing attack

The knifeman who killed one person in central Paris and injured four others was a French national born in Chechnya in 1997, officials in France have said.

The suspect, named as 20-year-old Khamzat Asinov, was shouting “Allahu akbar” as he attacked passersby at random in a busy area popular with tourists near the Opera Garnier, before being shot dead by police.

Isis claimed responsibility for the atrocity in a statement that described the culprit as one of its “soldiers”, and claimed the attack was in response to its calls to target countries bombing its territories in Syria and Iraq.

Francois Molins, the Paris prosecutor, confirmed that an investigation had been lauched ‘for assassination and attempted murder in connection with a terrorist enterprise’.

Interior minister Gerard Collomb said the four people injured were now out of danger. The 29-year-old man who was killed when his throat was slashed has not yet been named.

Mr Collomb said authorities were working to establish whether anyone might have helped plan the attack.

Sources say the attacker was a French national and had no criminal record, but agents were concerned that he was in regular contact with Isis.

He was categorised as “fiche S” in 2016, an indication used by law enforcement officials to flag people who may be a threat to national security.

Questions are being asked as to why he was free to carry out the attack despite being on a security watchlist.

The suspect’s parents are being held for questioning, according to Mr Molins.

A bullet hole on the window of a cafe located at the crossroads between the streets where one man was killed four others injured (AFP/Getty)

France has been on high alert since Paris was the site of the deadliest Isis attack in Europe on 13 November 2015, when attackers armed with guns and suicide vests killed 130 people in coordinated attacks at the Bataclan concert halls, Stade de France and restaurants.

More than 245 people have been killed in attacks commissioned or inspired by Isis in France since 2015. They have included knife attacks such as the one mounted in the southern city of Marseilles last October.

However, it is the first time a person of Chechen descent was responsible for an attack in the country, French newspaper Le Parisien reported.

Expert on terrorism Cedric Mas told BFM TV soldiers of Chechen origin were present in significant numbers within Isis, with some of them holding important military roles. Chechen soldiers within Isis are reported to have been present in large numbers during the battle for Mosul in Iraq.

A forensic officer and French policeman on Saint Augustin street in Paris (AFP/Getty)

President Emmanuel Macron said that France “paid once again the price of blood but will not yield an inch to the enemies of freedom” and praised police officers for “neutralising the terrorist”.

After attacking passersby, the assailant rushed at police saying: “I will kill you, I will kill you”, said police union representative Rocco Contento. One officer used his taser on the attacker before he was shot dead by another officer.

A witness told The Independent the attacker was trying to get into restaurants as diners barricaded the doors.

“First we thought it was two guys fighting,” said Fiona, who was having dinner in Kintaro restaurant and did not want her second name published.

“People that were queueing outside ran into the restaurant screaming, so everyone panicked and threw themselves on the floor.”

Fiona said the same man came back with the knife minutes later and was “screaming Allahu akbar”. She described how some people inside the restaurant, including her friend, blocked the door to prevent him from trying to enter again.

Witnesses described panic and screams after seeing a “guy with a knife in the streets” and videos posted on social media showed people running from the scene, which was cordoned off by security forces.

Anne Hidalgo, the mayor of Paris, said all Parisians were at the side of the victims and their loved ones.

“Tonight our city was bruised,” she wrote on Twitter. “I want to salute the police, whose composure, courage and professionalism have once again saved lives. They have my gratitude. I would also like to thank the emergency services that went very quickly to take care of the wounded.”

Additional reporting by news agencies.

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