herald

Thursday 8 December 2016

Paris terror attack foiled as Islamic extremist shoots himself in the leg

france

French soldiers patrol outside the Notre Dame Cathedral as part of the
French soldiers patrol outside the Notre Dame Cathedral as part of the "Vigipirate" security plan in Paris. Reuters/Charles Platiau

An Islamic extremist with an arsenal of loaded guns was prevented from opening fire on churchgoers only because he accidentally shot himself in the leg, French officials have said.

The 24-year-old computer science student, who was also suspected in the death of a young woman whose body was found on Sunday shortly before his arrest, had been flagged as a risk for intent to travel to Syria but there had been no specific reason to open a judicial investigation, Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve said yesterday.

Paris Prosecutor Francois Molins said the suspect - an Algerian who had lived in France for several years - was arrested in Paris on Sunday after he apparently shot himself by accident and called an ambulance.

He was waiting outside his apartment building for first aid when police arrived. They followed a blood trail to his car, which held loaded guns, and notes about potential targets.

A search of his apartment in southeastern Paris turned up more weapons including three Kalashnikov assault rifles along with phones and computers that police used to establish that he'd been in communication with someone "who could have been in Syria", Molins said.

This person "explicitly asked him to target a church," Molins said, declining to answer questions about the investigation into what he termed "an imminent attack".

evidence

Police also found Arabic-language material that mentioned al-Qaida and the Islamic State group in the man's apartment. There was no immediate evidence the suspect had direct ties to any organised groups, said a French security official.

Police arrested one person believed to be acquainted with the suspect yesterday evening in the town of Saint-Dizier, Molins said, but gave no further details.

Aurelie Chatelain, a 32-year-old Frenchwoman visiting in Paris, was found shot to death in her car on Sunday morning. The security official said Chatelain appeared to have been killed at random and ballistics evidence linked her death to the suspect.

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