Paris knife attacker who killed one and wounded two had history of mental illness

The prosecutor's spokesman said the attacker, identified only as Nathan C., had been born in a Paris suburb

French police secure an area in Villejuif near Paris, France, January 3, 2020 after police shot dead a man who tried to stab several people in a public park.  REUTERS/Charles Platiau
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A man shot dead in Paris on Friday after he launched a knife attack on passers-by had a history of mental illness, police said.

The man, who killed one man and then wounded two others in the attack, was found to be in possession of a Quran and other religious documents. However officials said there was no reason to believe he had been influenced by radical Islamists.

A spokesman for the prosecutors said the attacker was undergoing a course of psychiatric treatment after a being admitted to hospital a few months ago.

BFTV said the attacker died shortly after he was shot. AFP reported that one victim had been killed and another two injured.

The number two at the interior ministry, Laurent Nunez, travelled to the scene of the stabbings accompanied by Paris police chief Didier Lallement.

Local mayor, Vincent Jeanbrun, told broadcaster BFMTV that the attacker assaulted people in a park in Villejuif, about 8 km (5 miles) south of central Paris.

He then fled to a shopping centre in his area, L'Hay-les-Roses, and was shot by police there.

Police union official Yves Lefebvre said officers fired repeatedly because they feared the man was wearing an explosive belt and might blow himself up.

The two injured victims were being treated in nearby hospitals, Laure Beccuau, the prosecutor whose office is handling the case, told reporters.

"The suspect tried to attack other victims during his murderous spree, who were able to escape," she said.

Laurent Nunez, the deputy interior minister, visited the scene and said the attacker likely would have hurt more people if police had not shot him when they did. "It was an extremely courageous act," Nunez said of the police response.

The prosecutor's spokesman said the attacker, identified only as Nathan C., was born in 1997 in Lilas, a northeastern suburb of Paris.

One witness described hearing the attacker shout "Allahu Akbar," or "God is great," during the knife attack in the park, according to the spokesman.

But he said: "We don't have evidence that would allow us to suppose there has been a radicalisation." The man was not known to domestic intelligence services and had no criminal record, the spokesman said.

During the attack, the man first targeted a woman. The woman's spouse intervened to protect her, and in the process he was fatally stabbed. The woman was not gravely wounded, the spokesman said.

In October last year, four people were stabbed to death at the Paris police headquarters by Mickael Harpon, an IT specialist working for the police. Prosecutors said that Harpon, who was shot dead by police, had come under the sway of radical Islamists.