Two women held Thursday over Paris knife attack: prosecutor

Paris (AFP) –


Two women were detained for questioning Thursday in connection with a deadly knife attack in Paris last weekend, France's top anti-terror prosecutor Francois Molins said.

Molins also said that Abdoul Hakim A., a friend of the knifeman Khamzat Azimov, would be brought before a judge Thursday and potentially charged over his role in the attack.

He said he did not want to give more details of the two women for now, but a source close to the inquiry said one was Ines Hamza, a radicalised 19-year-old who married Abdoul Hakim A. before trying to leave for Syria in January 2017.

Azimov killed a 29-year-old man in the busy Opera district of the French capital on Saturday night before being shot and killed by police.

Molins said five other people had been wounded, and not four as previously reported.

He also said the deceased victim had been stabbed six times, with at least one "indicating an attempt to cut his throat".

Witnesses said Azimov yelled "Allahu akbar" (God is greatest) during the rampage, for which the Islamic State group has claimed responsibility, later releasing a video purporting to show Azimov pledging allegiance to the jihadists.

Azimov, a 20-year-old naturalised Frenchman of Chechen origin, had been on France's two main watch lists for suspected radicals since 2016.

His friend Abdoul Hakim, also 20 with Chechen origins and also on watch lists, was detained Sunday in the eastern city of Strasbourg, where the two men grew up, and later transferred to the headquarters of France's domestic intelligence services in Paris.

"He has denied any implication in either preparing or carrying out the acts as well as any recent links with Khamzat Azimov, claiming not to have seen or been in contact with him for several months," Molins said.

But he added that examinations of telephone networks showed that shortly before the attack, Abdoul Hakim has sent his sister a text message of "a jihadist chant regularly used by the Islamic State."

Investigators want to determine if Abdoul Hakim "may have influenced Azimov in his jihadist quest or knew he was planning this attack," the source said.

During a search of his home in Strasbourg police found seven cellphones but were unable to locate the phone he used most often, sources close to the case said.

"This telephone, he probably threw it away. He told investigators that he had gone to the gym and lost it there," Interior Minister Gerard Collomb told RTL radio on Wednesday.

He also revealed that Azimov had carried out his attack "with one of his mother's kitchen knives".

Azimov's parents were released from custody on Tuesday after investigators found no incriminating elements during questioning.

The attack brings to 246 the number of victims from a string of apparent jihadist strikes against French targets since 2015.