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Man ‘claiming allegiance to IS group’ stabs French policeman to death

Mathieu Alexandre, AFP | Members of the elite Raid police unit arrive at the Paris suburb where a policeman and his wife were murdered late on Monday.

A man who claimed allegiance to the Islamic State (IS) group stabbed a senior French police officer to death on Monday night before he was killed in a dramatic police operation, officials have said.

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The attacker repeatedly stabbed the officer before taking the officer's partner and their son hostage in their home in Magnanville, near Paris.

He was shot dead by members of an elite police unit after negotiations failed. The partner was found dead but the child was rescued.

French President François Hollande said Tuesday the murders were "unquestionably a terrorist act".

Sources close to the investigation named the suspect as 25-year-old Larossi Abballa, adding that he had been sentenced in 2013 for links to a jihadist network that sent recruits to Pakistan.

A news agency linked to the IS group said the attack had been carried out by an “Islamic State fighter”, days after posting a similar claim following the massacre at a gay club in Orlando, Florida.

The SITE Intelligence Group, a US-based monitor, cited the IS-linked Amaq News Agency as saying on its Telegram channels: “Islamic State fighter kills deputy chief of the police station in the city of Les Mureaux and his wife with blade weapons near #Paris."

French prosecutors have launched an anti-terror probe. Neither of the victims was named, but the slain policeman was known to be 42 years old and worked in nearby Les Mureaux. His partner was also a local police official.

Witnesses told investigators the man may have shouted “Allahu akbar” (God is greatest) as he stabbed the policeman repeatedly outside his home before holing up inside with the woman and the couple’s three-year-old son.

Loud detonations were heard at the scene as elite RAID police moved in following failed negotiations with the attacker, who claimed allegiance to IS while talking to officers, said sources close to the inquiry.

'Abject terrorist act'

President Hollande held an emergency cabinet meeting over the killings early on Tuesday, underscoring the seriousness with which the Elysée presidential palace is treating the incident.

If it is confirmed the IS group was behind the murders, it would be the first militant strike on French soil since the government imposed a state of emergency after the multiple attacks on Paris in November that killed 130 people.

The bloodshed comes as France hosts the Euro 2016 football tournament under tight security, and is still under a state of emergency proclaimed in the wake of the November 13 terrorist attacks.

Speaking after Tuesday's cabinet meeting, French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve denounced "an abject terrorist act".

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

The threat "is high in France, it's high in Europe, it's high in the Western world as shown by the events that happened 48 hours ago in the United States," Cazeneuve said.

'Infinite sadness'

Interior Ministry spokesman Pierre-Henry Brandet said officers found the woman’s body when they stormed the house, and the attacker was killed during the assault.

The couple’s toddler son was “in shock but unharmed,” a prosecutor added, saying the boy was receiving medical attention.

Police sources had told AFP earlier in the evening that the attacker had taken the policeman’s partner and son hostage after stabbing the officer to death as he returned home around 9:00pm local time.

Residents were quickly evacuated from the neighbourhood as police moved in and blocked off roads, an AFP journalist said.

RAID officers “arrived rapidly on the scene. Negotiations were launched and an assault plan was put in place,” said Brandet.

But the negotiations were “unsuccessful” and authorities decided to launch an assault around midnight, he added.

A helicopter was on the ground a few hundred metres away from the scene of the attack, while several fire trucks and ambulances were seen leaving the security perimeter.

Cazeneuve, the interior minister, expressed his “infinite sadness” at the death of the policeman and his partner, but praised the “great composure and great professionalism” of the elite officers.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP)

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