Nantes : A “known radical” suspected of having carried out a knife attack in France died of injuries sustained during a shootout with the police on Friday, a few hours after seriously injuring a policewoman during the latest violence against the police in recent years. last months.
The man, who was on a terrorist watch list according to the Interior Ministry, was on the run after the attack in La Chapelle-sur-Erdre, near the city of Nantes (west).
Eighty police officers were dispatched to pursue him and two gendarmes were injured in an exchange of gunfire which resulted in the arrest of the suspect, authorities said, including one in shock.
No motive for the stabbing emerged, but the attacker was “a known radical and suffering from a very serious psychiatric illness,” said a source involved in the investigation.
After stabbing the officer in a police station, inflicting life-threatening injuries, the suspect stole her service weapon and fled on foot.
Home Secretary Gerald Darmanin, who arrived at the scene in the afternoon, confirmed that the suspect was known to police as a radical.
‘On watch list’
“This French national of French origin, in his forties and known to the police, was released from prison in 2016 where he was singled out for a strict practice of Islam and radicalization ”, leading to his inclusion on a watch list of potential terrorists. sympathizers, says Darmanin.
Darmanin said the suspect, who died shortly after the shooting, opened fire on the officers who then fired back.
An AFP photo reporter present at the scene said he heard a dozen shells fired in two rapid bursts during the deadlock in a residential area.
Special police forces wearing shields and helmets used trash cans and bushes for cover when they opened fire.
A witness told AFP that he saw a civilian on the ground surrounded by police after the shooting.
“The gendarmes neutralized the individual suspected of the knife attack on the municipal police officer,” Darmanin tweeted.
Primary and secondary school students in the region have been confined indoors while police tracked down the suspect, a city official told AFP.
“We pulled the curtains and told the children to lie down on the floor. They’ve been there for two hours, ”a local teacher told AFP by text message during the manhunt.
La Chapelle-sur-Erdre is a town of 20,000 inhabitants located just north of Nantes near the Atlantic coast.
The attack came the same day Justice Minister Eric Dupond-Moretti called on French judges to be “firm” in the face of those convicted of attacks on the police.
Series of attacks
French police have demanded better protection and tougher penalties for the attacks against them after a series of assaults in recent months that have shocked the country.
Earlier this month, Constable Eric Masson was shot dead while investigating the activities of a known drug trafficking site in the southern city of Avignon.
Masson’s death came after the murder on April 23 of Stéphanie Monferme, a police employee who was stabbed in the town of Rambouillet, in the Paris suburbs, during the last jihadist attack in France.
There was no immediate indication that French authorities intended to open a terrorist investigation into Friday’s attack.
Several attacks over the past year have rekindled concerns about the spread of radical Islam in France and immigration.
In September, a Pakistani man injured two people with a meat cleaver outside the former offices of the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo which had printed cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad.
On October 16, a young Chechen refugee beheaded teacher Samuel Paty who had shown some of the cartoons to his students.
And on October 29, three people were killed when a recently arrived Tunisian stabbed a church in the Mediterranean city of Nice.
In the most serious recent attack on French police, three policemen and a police employee were stabbed to death in October 2019 by a fellow computer scientist who was himself shot dead.
It turned out later that he was interested in radical Islam.
These attacks came after massacres carried out by Islamist extremists from 2015 onwards that began with the killing of staff members in Charlie Hebdo offices in January of the same year.
In France’s deadliest peacetime atrocity, 130 people were killed and 350 were injured when suicide bombers and gunmen attacked the Stade de France stadium, bars and restaurants in central Paris and the Bataclan concert hall in November 2015.
(Except for the title, this story was not edited by NDTV staff and is posted from a syndicated feed.)