French anti-terror inquiry finds signs of radicalisation of Paris knife attacker

PARIS (REUTERS, AFP) – France’s anti-terror prosecutor said its investigation had detected signs of “latent radicalisation” of the knife attacker who killed four co-workers in Paris this week.

The 45-year-old, who had worked for several years at the police headquarters where he carried out the attacks, had converted to Islam about ten years ago.

Anti-terror prosecutor Jean-Francois Ricard told reporters on Saturday (Oct 5) that the assailant, a computer expert, was in contact with members of the Salafist Islamist movement.

He exchanged 33 text messages with his wife ahead of the attacks, all of which were of a religious character, Mr Ricard said.

The attacker “agreed with certain atrocities committed in the name of that religion” and defended the Charlie Hebdo attacks in 2015, Mr Ricard said. He had also changed his attire in recent months and wished to no longer “have certain kinds of contact with women”. 

The assailant, named as Mickael Harpon, was born on the French overseas territory of Martinique in the Caribbean. Sources said he had worked in a section of the police service dedicated to collecting information on militant radicalisation. 

Three police officers and an administrative worker – three men and a woman – died in the frenzied 30-minute attack on Thursday at the police headquarters, a stone’s throw from the Notre-Dame cathedral in the historic heart of Paris.

The assailant was eventually shot dead by police.

Two other people were injured in the Thursday lunchtime stabbing spree that sent shock waves through an embattled French police force already complaining of low morale.

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