Meat cleaver-wielding man shot dead after trying to attack Paris police station

The incident comes on the first anniversary of the Charlie Hebdo attacks.
French police  are seen at Barbes-Rochechouart in the north of Paris on January 7, 2016, after police shot a man dead as he was trying to enter a police station. AFP Photo
French police are seen at Barbes-Rochechouart in the north of Paris on January 7, 2016, after police shot a man dead as he was trying to enter a police station. AFP Photo

PARIS // French police shot dead a meat cleaver-wielding man on Thursday as he tried to attack a police station in Paris, a year to the day since gunmen killed 12 people at the offices of satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo.

A piece of paper found on the man’s body “vows allegiance” to ISIL and said he was avenging French “attacks in Syria”, a source close to the investigation said. He shouted “Allahu Akbar” and was wearing what appeared to be an explosives vest, which was later found to be a fake.

News of the incident came just after president Francois Hollande concluded a sombre speech at police headquarters to mark the anniversary of the killings at Charlie Hebdo’s offices on January 7, 2015.

“On Thursday morning, a man attempted to attack a policeman at the reception of the police station before being hit by shots from the police,” interior ministry spokesman Pierre-Henry Brandet said.

Explosives experts were deployed to the scene in the multi-ethnic Goutte d’Or district, close to the Gare du Nord international station.

The man was found to have been wearing a pouch under his coat with a wire hanging from it, but the device “contained no explosives”, a source close to the investigation said.

With France also still grieving after the massacre of 130 people by extremists in Paris in November, Mr Hollande used his speech to call for greater cooperation between the security services.

“Faced with these adversaries, it is essential that every service – police, gendarmerie, intelligence, military – work in perfect harmony, with the greatest transparency, and that they share all the information at their disposal,” the president said.

Many of the extremists in both the January and November attacks were known to French security services, having either travelled abroad to fight with extremists or been prevented from doing so.

Mr Hollande said that since the attack on the Charlie Hebdo offices, nearly 200 people in France had been placed under travel restrictions to prevent them joining up with ISIL in Syria or Iraq.

He added that the three police officers killed in January’s attacks “died so that we could live in freedom”.

A policeman who was guarding the newspaper’s editor, Charb, was killed alongside him by brothers Cherif and Said Kouachi. The gunmen also shot dead another policeman, Ahmed Merabet, as he lay on the pavement near the newspaper’s offices.

The next day, a policewoman was killed by extremist Amedy Coulibaly in the southern suburb of Montrouge, apparently as he was heading to attack a Jewish school.

Among changes set to be introduced in the wake of the November attacks are new guidelines allowing police to keep their weapons even when off-duty.

The president reiterated his pledge to boost the number of police and armed gendarmes by 5,000.

The speech will be followed by a concert on Sunday to mark the one million people who poured onto the streets of Paris on January 11, 2015, in an outpouring of support for freedom of expression in the wake of the deaths of Charlie Hebdo’s best-known cartoonists.

The newspaper had been in extremists’ sights since it first published cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed in 2006.

On Tuesday, the widow of Franck Brinsolaro, the bodyguard who was killed in the attack, said she had filed a lawsuit claiming that he was left vulnerable because the security around the newspaper had been reduced before the shootings.

Charlie Hebdo has continued to raise ire, rejecting self-censorship in the wake of the attacks and working from ultra-secure offices in a top-secret location.

On Wednesday it published a typically provocative special edition featuring a gun-toting God, sparking protests from the Vatican.

The cover of the anniversary edition features a bloodstained, bearded God figure in sandals with a Kalashnikov rifle slung over his shoulder under the headline: “One year on: the killer is still at large.”

* Agence France-Presse

Published: January 7, 2016 04:00 AM

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