A radicalized French ex-prisoner on a watchlist for potential terrorist threats on Friday stabbed a policewoman inside her post in western France and died following a shootout with police, a said a government minister.
The victim was seriously injured but is expected to survive, Home Secretary Gerald Darmanin said.
The assailant was released from prison in March following an eight-year sentence for violent crime and was on a security service register for people who may be at risk of terrorism.
“He was reported in 2016 for strictly practicing Islam, for radicalization,” Darmanin told reporters after visiting the Chapelle-sur-Erdre police station, near Nantes, where the attack took place .
The attack echoed the fatal stabbing of a police administrative worker near Paris a month ago.
Stephanie Monferme was killed at the entrance to her police station by a Tunisian national who had watched Islamic religious videos glorifying acts of jihad just before launching her attack.
Darmanin said the suspect in Friday’s assault was diagnosed with severe schizophrenia and was undergoing medical treatment after being released from prison. He had been placed in an apartment where he was watched by specialists, added Darmanin.
The suspect first fled in a car before an accident forced him to continue on foot. He was found after a manhunt involving 250 officers and surrounded on the outskirts of Chapelle-sur-Erdre.
The suspect, who stole his victim’s gun, opened fire on officers, Darmanin said.
There was a shooting as police moved to arrest the man. The suspect died shortly after and two police officers sustained minor gunshot wounds.
Darmanin said France’s counterterrorism prosecutor was not leading the investigation at this stage. The minister said that it was not for him to qualify whether it was an act of terrorism.
The fight against internal security will likely be at the center of the campaign ahead of next year’s presidential election.
Marine Le Pen, a far-right leader and the strongest opponent of Emmanuel Macron’s expected re-election candidacy, portrays the president as weak on security and says the police need more protection.
“I refuse to make attacks on the police part of everyday life. We must finally fight against this barbarism and never, absolutely never, get used to it, ”Le Pen tweeted.
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