Two people were seriously injured last week’s attack, which took place outside the newspaper’s former offices where Islamic extremists killed 12 people in January 2015. The two brothers involved in the 2015 attack targeted Charlie Hebdo because they believed the newspaper was blaspheming Islam by publishing the same caricatures of Muhammad.
Authorities are investigating Friday’s stabbing as an Islamic extremist attack. A judicial inquiry has been opened for “attempted murder in connection with a terrorist enterprise” and “terrorist conspiracy”.
Counterterrorism Prosecutor Jean-François Ricard said Pakistan-born suspect identified as 25-year-old Zaher Hassan Mahmood after a photo of his passport was found in his mobile phone . He first told police he introduced himself as 18-year-old Hassan Ali.
Ricard said the attacker did not claim to be affiliated with a specific extremist group.
The suspect said he saw videos from Pakistan of Charlie Hebdo’s decision to reprint the cartoons as more than a dozen people accused in the attack on a newspaper and another outside a kosher grocery store in Paris were on trial this month, according to the prosecutor.
Describing himself as “angry,” the assailant said he decided to carry out the attack without knowing the newspaper had moved, Ricard said.
“Initially he wanted to enter the building if necessary… When he came in front and saw the victims, he thought they were working for the satirical publication and decided to attack them,” Ricard said.
In a three-minute video posted to social media on Friday morning, the suspect, speaking in Urdu, “announces his act,” Ricard said, citing him as saying he would “rebel” against the new publication of the caricatures.
The prosecutor said that some of his relatives have described him in recent weeks as “watching extensively videos of Khadim Hussain Rizvi, the leader of the radical Pakistani party Tehreek-e-Labbaik known as TLP, who in September followed publications of caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad, organized demonstrations. ”
Several associates and relatives of the cutler were all released without charge.
Ricard said the suspect had arrived France two years ago, posing as an unaccompanied minor. He was not on the police radar for Islamic radicalization and was not known to French intelligence services.
Charlie Hebdo lost 12 employees in a 2015 al-Qaida attack by French-born extremists who criticized the prophet caricatures. The newspaper, which regularly pokes fun at religious figures of all kinds, decided to republish the cartoons the day before the trial into the 2015 bombings that opened this month. The post drew threats from militant groups, as well as criticism from Muslims in several countries.
The two people injured in Friday’s attack were a woman and a man working at the documentary production company First Lines who had gone out for a smoke break.
– Reported with Associated Press