PARIS – French investigators were studying a video on Sunday claiming responsibility for the meat cleaver attack in Paris that targeted satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo as the government condemned an act of “Islamist terrorism”.
Eight people were still under arrest, including the alleged perpetrator of Friday’s attack which left two seriously injured outside the former Charlie Hebdo offices in Paris.
The man is an 18-year-old Pakistan-born man named Hassan A, according to a source close to the investigation.
He told investigators he carried out the attack to avenge Charlie Hebdo’s republication of the Prophet Muhammad cartoons, which was the target of a January 2015 massacre by Islamist gunmen.
Investigators were now seeking to authenticate a video they said could show Hassan A. announcing that he was about to carry out the attack.
“We see him cry, sing. He claims his act in advance by evoking the republication of the cartoons, ”said the source, who asked not to be named.
“It’s a kind of manifesto, he announces that he is going to act,” explained the source, adding: “It is not a claim of allegiance to an organization”.
The suspect was born in the Pakistani town of Mandi Bahauddin and while he speaks some French he needed a translator during his questioning, the source close to the investigation said.
He would have entered France three years ago when he was still a minor and would have shown no risk of radicalization when he had been arrested for carrying a cold weapon.
– “At war against Islamic terrorism” –
The two injured were employees of the award-winning television production agency First Lines, whose offices are in the same building that previously housed Charlie Hebdo in the center of the capital.
However, it is not believed that the two, whose lives are not in danger, were specifically targeted.
The man mistakenly believed that Charlie Hebdo’s offices were still in this building and wanted to attack the magazine’s journalists, according to his statement to investigators.
One arrested person was released overnight. But in addition to the prime suspect, seven others were still in custody.
These include his younger brother and the people who lived with him in his last place of residence in northern Paris.
The attack came three weeks after the start of a trial in Paris of alleged accomplices in the January 2015 attacks against Charlie Hebdo, a policewoman and a Jewish supermarket that left 17 people dead.
The bloodshed heralded a wave of Islamist violence in France that has so far claimed 258 lives.
Home Secretary Gerald Darmanin conceded that authorities may have become complacent about the terrorist risk after a relative lull in high-profile attacks in recent years.
“We are in an extremely critical situation, we are at war against Islamist terrorism. Maybe, collectively, we put this behind us, ”he said.
Darmanin said the threat was still real, noting that 32 attacks had been foiled in the past three years. “It’s about once a month,” he says.
The centrist government of President Emmanuel Macron has started in recent weeks to use increasingly harsh rhetoric on internal security issues in what analysts see as a shift to the right.