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French anti-terror prosecutor takes on Paris police HQ knife-attack probe

AFP | Officers stationed on a bridge leading to the police headquarters in central Paris.

The investigation into a knife attack in which an IT staffer stabbed four colleagues to death inside the Paris police headquarters has been handed over to the anti-terrorist prosecutor's office, French officials announced Friday.

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The probe into Thursday’s attack inside the Paris police headquarters was initially handled by the Paris prosecutor’s office, with theParis police chief stressing that investigators were not ruling out any hypotheses into what motivated the attacker.

But hours later, French officials said the anti-terror prosecutor was taking over the investigation following the interrogation of several of the attacker's close associates, including his wife, and an examination of his mobile phone.

"Investigators seized his telephone and computer equipment, and it’s probably the information gleaned from that which enabled the prosecutor's office to reclassify the facts," said FRANCE 24’s Karim Hakiki, who has been covering the story since Thursday.

"The central question of the investigators is now that of motivation. We know that he had problems with his superiors [at Paris police headquarters], but the problem is that he worked in the intelligence service and the fight against terrorism," added Hakiki.

The 45-year-old attacker worked as an IT assistant in the police intelligence unit and was a staffer for several years.

The assailant, who has not been named, converted to Islam around 18 months ago, French media reported.

A day after the attack, investigators had started tracing the assailant’s movements before he was gunned down Thursday afternoon. "The police will now work on his schedule to understand who he met, who were his contacts, if he travelled, and how did he convert [to Islam],” explained Hakiki.

Three men and a woman – three police officers and an administrative worker – were killed in a frenzied 30-minute attack with a kitchen knife inside the sprawling police premises on the historic Île de la Cité island in the River Seine, close to the Notre-Dame cathedral in Paris.

Wife of attacker questioned

The wife of the attacker was taken in for questioning Thursday night after the attack. “We have just learnt that [authorities] have extended that for another 24 hours,” said FRANCE 24’s Clovis Casali, who has also been covering the story. “She has already said he said some incoherent words the night before the attack, that he was also hearing voices.”

Thursday’s attack came as thousands of French police officers marched in Paris earlier this week to protest against low wages, long hours and increasing suicides in their ranks.

In the past four years, the French capital has been rocked by violent attacks resulting in mass casualties.

Coordinated bombings and shootings by Islamist militants in November 2015, at the Bataclan theatre and other locations around Paris, killed 130 people in the deadliest attacks in France since World War Two.

(FRANCE 24 with REUTERS)

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