Attack on police at Notre Dame Cathedral a 'lone wolf' incident

Bertrand Guay, AFP | French police officials gather near the site of an attack at the entrance of Notre-Dame cathedral in Paris on June 6, 2017.

The suspect who allegedly attacked a police officer with a hammer outside Paris’ Notre Dame Cathedral Tuesday has been identified. The government spokesman said the attack was an ‘isolated incident.’


The 40-year-old Algerian-born man, who was shot by police and was hospitalised with minor injuries to his chest, told the police he was a “solider of the caliphate” (meaning of the Islamic State (IS) group).

Government spokesman Christophe Castaner said on Wednesday that he had shown no signs of radicalisation.

The attack took place about 4.20 pm Paris Time on Tuesday afternoon, when the assailant approached three police officers from behind and hit one of them with a hammer while yelling, “This is for Syria!”

He also had two kitchen knives with him, French Interior Minister Gérard Collomb told reporters Tuesday.

The 22-year-old police officer who was attacked suffered minor injuries to his neck and was also hospitalised, AFP reported.

The cathedral was placed on lockdown and visitors took shelter inside as the police operation was under way in the square.

At least 600 people were blocked inside the world-famous 12th-century church while police secured the streets around it, then combed the pews for possible suspects. Witnesses said those inside were asked to raise their hands over their heads (photo above).

Doctorate student

“He portrayed himself as an Algerian student and was carrying an identity card, the authenticity of which we still need to verify," Collomb said.

At the time of the attack, he was carrying a student identity card with the name Farid I. and a birth date of January, 1977. He had been enrolled in the doctorate programme in information science at the University of Lorraine in Metz since 2014, a source close to the investigation told AFP.

James André reports from Notre Dame

"When I knew him, he was someone with pro-western and pro-democratic values," his thesis director Arnaud Mercier, a professor of media, said on BFMTV Tuesday night. The suspect didn't show "any outward signs of being excessively religious," Mercier said.

The anti-terrorist unit has opened an investigation into the incident.

On Tuesday night, heavily armed police searched a ground-floor studio in a student housing building in the southwestern suburbs of Paris where the man lived.

Targetting security forces

Such "lone wolf" attackers have often targeted France's security forces.

A police officer was killed and two others were wounded on April 20 when an attacker opened fire on their vehicle on the Champs-Élysées avenue. A 39-year-old man was killed at Paris's Orly Airport in March after attacking a soldier while a man armed with a machete attacked soldiers on patrol at the Louvre Museum in February.

France has been on high alert since January 2015, when gunmen killed 17 people in attacks at the Charlie Hebdo satirical magazine and a Kosher supermarket. Several bars and restaurants in Paris, including the Bataclan concert hall, were targeted in attacks that left 130 dead on November 13 of that same year. A truck rammed through a festive crowd gathered for a Bastille Day fireworks display in Nice in July 2016, leaving more than 80 people dead.

France remains in a state of emergency and at its highest terror warning level after a series of terrorist attacks in recent years.


(FRANCE 24 with AFP)

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