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World

French Police Commander Slain by Jihadi Recruiter

Two people close to the attacker, identified as 25-year-old Larossi Abballa, were detained

French police officers work at the crime scene the day after a knife-wielding attacker stabbed a senior police officer to death Monday, photo: AP/Thibault Camus
1 year ago

A Frenchman once convicted of recruiting jihadi fighters stabbed a police commander to death outside his suburban Paris home, recording the attack and posting it on Facebook Live, French officials said Tuesday. The commander’s partner and the attacker were found dead inside the home after a three-hour standoff with police.

The couple’s 3-year-old was in the house in Magnanville, about 35 miles west of Paris, but was unharmed. A police official said that at one point in the video the attacker puzzled over what to do with the child.

The Islamic State group’s Amaq news agency cited an unnamed source as saying an Islamic State group fighter carried out the attack late Monday. While the extremist group has not officially claimed responsibility, French President François Hollande said it was “incontestably a terrorist act” and that France faces a threat “of a very large scale.”

Two people close to the attacker, identified as 25-year-old Larossi Abballa, were detained, authorities said Tuesday. They gave no details about them.

France has been on particularly high alert as it hosts Europe’s top sporting event, the monthlong European Championship soccer tournament, and is still under a state of emergency after the November Islamic State group attacks in Paris that killed 130 people.

Hollande held an emergency security meeting Tuesday.

French police officers block the road leading to a crime scene the day after a knife-wielding attacker stabbed a senior police officer to death Monday evening outside his home in Magnanville, west of Paris, France, Tuesday, June 14, 2016. The attacker and a female companion of the police commander were later found dead after police commandos stormed the home and rescued the couple's three-year-old son. (AP Photo/Thibault Camus)

French police officers block the road leading to a crime scene the day after a knife-wielding attacker stabbed a senior police officer to death Monday evening outside his home in Magnanville, west of Paris, France, Tuesday, June 14, 2016. Photo: AP/Thibault Camus

“France is not the only country concerned (by the terrorist threat), as we have seen, again, in the United States, in Orlando,” he said.

Abballa was from the nearby suburb of Mantes-la-Jolie and was sentenced in 2013 to three years in prison for recruiting fighters for jihad in Pakistan, according to two police officials. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to be publicly named discussing investigations.

A resident of the apartment building where Abballa lived, who did not want to give his name, said police raided it early Tuesday.

Neighborhood resident Henriette Yenge, who lives and works near the building, said she would say hello to Abballa when he went to the mosque around the corner.

“He was a neighborhood kid,” she said. “I was surprised it was him. It’s sad to see things like that.”

Two other security officials who also spoke on condition of anonymity said Abballa recorded a video during the knife attack. One official said the assailant posted the video on Facebook Live, the social media site’s live feed.

A Facebook profile bearing the name Larossi Abballa — which vanished from the internet early Tuesday — showed a photo of a smiling, bearded man. Two recent posts featured videos critical of Israel and Saudi Arabia. The last publicly available post was a mock-up of the European Championship logo, highlighting what the poster said were masonic and occult symbols.

“Some will say we see evil everywhere!” Abballa said in a message posted about 18 hours before the attack.

On Tuesday, Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve visited the police station in the suburb of Les Mureaux where 42-year-old Jean-Baptiste Salvaing worked. Police did not identify his partner but said she was an administrator for police in Mantes-La-Jolie.

Cazeneuve said more than 100 people seen as potential threats have been arrested in France this year, including in recent weeks.

France, like other countries in Europe, has seen a series of stabbings aimed at police officers or soldiers and carried out by Muslim radicals. The Islamic State group has encouraged its supporters to stage such attacks.

Monday’s attack shook police officers, and Cazeneuve said they would be allowed to take home their service weapons.

“Today every police officer is a target,” Yves Lefebvre of police union Unite SGP Police-FO said. He says attackers are “professionalizing” and can now find police in their homes.

In Paris, the Eiffel Tower was lit up Monday night in the colors of a rainbow to honor victims of Saturday’s mass shooting at a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida, that killed at least 49 people. The gunman declared his allegiance to the Islamic State group in phone calls to police, but his motives remain unclear.

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