Paris shooting suspect faces attempted murder charge
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French authorities on Thursday named Abdelhakim Dekhar as the man held in connection with a string of shootings in Paris after matching his DNA to samples taken from the crime scenes. Dekhar will face charges of attempted murder and kidnapping.
The Paris prosecutor said Thursday that the man suspected of going on a shooting spree in Paris is now well enough to be questioned and has been placed under formal investigation on charges of attempted murder and kidnapping.
The suspect, named by police as Abdelhakim Dekhar, was caught after a major three-day manhunt following a shooting at the offices of left-wing newspaper Libération on Monday, which left a photographer’s assistant in a critical condition, and a subsequent shooting in the business district of La Défense.
France's Interior Minister Manuel Valls announced Thursday that DNA samples taken at the scenes of the shootings matched the DNA of a suspect found by police in a car park north of Paris on Wednesday.
A police source told FRANCE 24 that officers had found a “rambling” letter on the car seat next to him, in which he complained about social problems in France and the wars in Syria and Libya.
The letter demonstrated a “clear lack of mental coherence”, the source said.
It has emerged that Dekhar, 48, was previously jailed for four years in 1998 for his role in a "Bonnie and Clyde" style murder spree that left four people dead, horrifying France in the 1990s.
He was arrested at around 7:00pm (1800 GMT) on Wednesday in a vehicle in an underground car park in the northwestern Paris suburb of Bois-Colombes, where he appeared to have taken an overdose.
“My colleagues noticed he was not very lucid. They deduced that he had taken medicine, because of the capsules nearby,” police union official Christophe Crépin told reporters.
Dekhar was taken directly to a Paris hospital. “He’s incarcerated but in a medical environment,” Crépin said.
Valls praised the police for securing Dekhar's arrest.
Dekhar was previously convicted in 1998 of buying a gun used in the 1994 shootings by student Florence Rey and her lover Audry Maupin, in which three police officers and a taxi driver were killed. Dekhar claimed at the time that he had been hired by the Algerian secret services to infiltrate the French far-left, with which Rey and Maupin were involved.
'I've made a stupid mistake'
Wednesday’s arrest came after a witness contacted the police. The police on Tuesday released a new photograph of Dekhar to the press and received hundreds of calls from members of the public.
The key witness who came forward had recently housed the suspect before seeing him on police appeals, Crépin said.
The witness said Dekhar told him, “I've made a stupid mistake”.
Dekhar opened fire with a 12-gauge shotgun at the offices of Libération early on Monday, shooting a 23-year-old photographer's assistant in the lobby, and subsequently firing another blast that hit the roof before fleeing the scene.
He then crossed the city to the La Defénse business district on the French capital’s western edge, where he fired several shots outside the headquarters of one of France’s largest banks, Société Générale, hitting no-one.
Dekhar proceeded to hijack a car and forced the driver to drop him off close to the Paris’s famed Champs-Elysées in the centre of the French capital, before disappearing.
He stormed the Paris headquarters of popular TV news channel BFMTV on Friday, where he briefly threatened staff with a gun before rushing out.
The series of attacks caused widespread concern that media outlets were being targeted and armed police were rapidly posted at press organisations.
Photographer in ‘critical condition’
Libération executive Nicolas Demorand said on Tuesday that the photographer injured in Monday’s attack, a 23-year-old originally from the southern city of Toulon, was “still critical” although he was “in a slightly better state” after undergoing surgery.
“He was in a hopeless state yesterday when he was hospitalised,” Demorand told French radio station France Inter. “He is in a critical condition, but we remain hopeful.”
Demorand said the shooting in the entrance hall of the office had left staff traumatised.
A commentary in Tuesday’s edition of the paper signed by Demorand was headlined simply: “We will continue”.
The daily devoted four pages to the unprecedented attack and an employee described the moment the gunman walked in.
“The guy pulled out a gun from his bag and fired twice at the first person he saw. It lasted no more than 10 seconds, and anyone of us could have been hit. The shooter said nothing and left immediately,” the staff member was quoted as saying.
(FRANCE 24 with AP and AFP)