‘Little doubt’ Paris stabbing was terrorism, says French interior minister

PARIS (AP) — The main suspect in the double stabbing Friday outside the former Paris offices of a satirical newspaper where dozens were killed in 2015 was arrested a month ago for carrying a screwdriver but not on police radar for Islamic radicalization, France’s interior minister said.

Two suspects were arrested separately shortly after the stabbing in which two people were wounded, although the links between the two suspects weren’t immediately clear. The main suspect, the young man, was arrested on the steps of the Bastille Opera not far from the attack site, near the building where the weekly Charlie Hebdo was located before the 2015 attack.

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

“But manifestly it’s an act of Islamist terrorism,” Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin said in an interview with the France 2 television station. “Obviously, there is little doubt. It’s a new bloody attack against our country, against journalists, against this society.”

France’s 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.

From the left, Paris mayor Anne Hidalgo, anti-terrorism state prosecutor Jean-Francois Ricard, and Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin answer reporters after a knife attack near the former offices of satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo, September 25, 2020, in Paris. (AP Photo/Lewis Joly)

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

The suspects’ identities have not been released. An investigation was opened into “attempted murder in relation with a terrorist enterprise,” according to an official at the terrorism prosecutor’s office.

French Prime Minister Jean Castex said the lives of the two wounded workers were not in danger. He offered the government’s 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 government’s “unfailing attachment to freedom of the press, and its determination to fight terrorism.”

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.

Police officers stand by a knife, seen on the ground, in Paris, September 25, 2020. (Soufian Fezzani Via AP)

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