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Paris Stabbing Suspect Wasnt on Police Radar, Minister Says

PARIS—A young man stabbed two people Friday outside the former Paris offices of satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo, where 12 people were killed in 2015, and a terrorism investigation has been opened into the new attack, authorities said.

The suspected assailant had been arrested a month ago for carrying a screwdriver but was not on police radar for Islamic radicalization, Frances interior minister said. He said the screwdriver was considered a weapon, but did not explain why.

Two people were wounded in Fridays attack, and two suspects were arrested, although the links between the two suspects werent immediately clear. The main suspect, a young man with speckles of blood on his forehead and wearing orange gym shoes, was arrested on the steps of the Bastille Opera in eastern Paris, authorities said. The site is not far from where Fridays attack took place, outside the building where the weekly Charlie Hebdo was located before the 2015 attack.

The interior minister said the assailant arrived in France three years ago as an unaccompanied minor, apparently from Pakistan, but his identity was still being verified.

“Manifestly its an act of Islamist terrorism,” Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin said in an interview with public broadcaster France-2. “Obviously, there is little doubt. Its a new bloody attack against our country, against journalists, against this society.”

Paris terror
Paris terror
Police at the scene of a knife attack near the former offices of satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo, in Paris, on Sept. 25, 2020. (Thibault Camus/AP Photo)

Frances counterterrorism prosecutor said earlier that authorities suspect a terrorist motive because of the place and timing of the stabbings: in front of the building where Charlie Hebdo was based until the Islamic extremist attack on its cartoonists, and at a time when suspects in the 2015 attack are on trial across town.

Prosecutor Jean-Francois Ricard said that the chief suspect in Fridays stabbings was arrested, along with another person. Ricard said the assailant did not know the people stabbed, a woman and a man working at a documentary production company who had stepped outside for a smoke break.

An investigation was opened into “attempted murder in relation with a terrorist enterprise,” according to the terrorism prosecutors office.

France Knife Attack
France Knife Attack
French police officers and rescue workers gather after two people have been wounded in a knife attack near the former offices of satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo, Paris, on Sept. 25, 2020. (Thibault Camus/AP Photo)

French Prime Minister Jean Castex said the lives of the two wounded workers lives were not in danger. He offered the governments solidarity with their families and colleagues.

The prime minister noted the “symbolic site” of the attack, “at the very moment where the trial into the atrocious acts against Charlie Hebdo is under way.” He promised the governments “unfailing attachment to freedom of the press, and its determination to fight terrorism.”

People in the neighborhood were stunned, saying on French TV that they were reliving the nightmare of the newsroom massacre.

In a tweet, Charlie Hebdo strongly condemned the stabbings.

“This tragic episode shows us once again that fanaticism, intolerance, the origins of which will be revealed by the investigation, are still present in French society. … There is no question of ceding anything,” the newspaper said.

The two people confirmed injured worked for documentary film company Premieres Lignes, according to founder Paul Moreira. He told Frances BFM television that the attacker fled into the subway, and the companys staff members were evacuated.

France Knife Attack
France Knife Attack
French soldiers patrol after two people have been wounded in a knife attack near the former offices of satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo, Paris, on Sept. 25, 2020. (Thibault Camus/AP Photo)

Moreira said a man in the street “attacked two people who were in front of the building, didnt enter the building, and who attacked them with an axe and who left.” He said the company had not received any threats.

His colleague, Luc Hermann, describing witnesses version of the attack, said the assailant first struck the woman in her face, then the man, before returning to attack the woman again.

“The whole team … took refuge on the roof of the building like our team did five years ago during the attack of Charlie Hebdo,” he said on France-2.

He said it was “incomprehensible” that authorities had not taken special security precautions particularly at this time.

A wrenching, two-month trial in the Charlie Hebdo attacks is currently unfolding at the main Paris courthouse. Murmurs broke at the terrorism trial of 14 people, including 3 fugitives, accused of helping the attackers in the January 2015 killings, as the news filtered through.

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