Three Sudanese arrested over French ‘terror’ stabbing

France is in the third week of a national lockdown, with all but essential businesses shut and people confined to their homes. (AFP)
Short Url
Updated 06 April 2020

Three Sudanese arrested over French ‘terror’ stabbing

  • A source close to the probe said the alleged attacker had said that “he did not remember what happened”

PARIS: A third person has been detained in an anti-terrorism investigation in France over a knife attack south of Lyon that left two people dead, authorities said on Sunday.
The third arrest was made on Saturday night, and all three of the suspects are Sudanese, the French anti-terror prosecutor’s office said.
In televised remarks on Sunday night, French Interior Minister Christophe Castaner did not confirm the assault as a terrorist attack, adding that police were still investigating it.
President Emmanuel Macron described the attack as an “odious” incident that further saddened a country already suffering an ordeal.
“My thoughts are with the victims of the Romans-sur-Isere attack — the injured, their families,” he tweeted.
Macron promised that “light will be shed” on the crime.
On Saturday, a man attacked residents with a knife in the small town of Romans-sur-Isere, injuring several people in addition to the two fatalities. Residents, who were in lockdown amid the coronavirus pandemic, were carrying out their permitted daily food shopping.
France is currently in lockdown because of the coronavirus pandemic. People are only allowed out to buy basic necessities or for exercise.
France has been on high alert since 2015, when Paris was hit by a series of attacks attributed to Daesh.
The suspect killed two French managers of French cafe La  Charrette, in a town of 35,000 people in the southeast of France — Romans-sur-Isere.
Five people were injured in the spree, two remain in intensive care in a stable condition.
The arrested suspect, 33, was described by the mayor of the area as having obtained a political refugee status.
“Anyone who had the misfortune to find themselves in his way were attacked,” said Mayor Marie-Helene Thoraval.
Ahmed-Osman obtained refugee status in France in June 2017, according to investigators.
He was previously unknown to the police or intelligence services.
The initial investigation has “brought to light a determined, murderous course” that was targeted “to seriously disturb public order through intimidation or terror,” the prosecutor’s office said.
A source close to the probe said the alleged attacker had said that “he did not remember what happened.”
An initial interrogation was delayed as Ahmed-Osman was very agitated.  The prosecutor’s office also claimed that a search of the suspect’s apartment had uncovered “handwritten documents with religious connotations.”
The people of the French town were in shock. They knew the managers of the Charrette cafe who were killed.

HIGHLIGHTS

• President Emmanuel Macron described the attack as an ‘odious’ incident.

• Macron promised that ‘light will be shed’ on the crime.

Arab News interviewed a Sudanese also having asylum status in France. He was a former roommate of the alleged assailant who lived with him in Grenoble in 2017 before the alleged attacker moved to Romans-sur-Isere.
Abdel Moneim, who is employed in public works currently in Lyon, told Arab News: “I met him in 2017 but I don’t know when he arrived in France from Sudan; he got the right to asylum in France and was sent by the French to live in this town.”
He said: “I stopped contact with him when we both moved but I don’t think he is connected to a terrorist network. I think he is sick and even so this does not justify the crime. I know he was sick in hospital in Grenoble.  But I don’t know if he was in hospital because he was disturbed. He also was on drugs from time to time. But I know he was psychologically disturbed, I think the French police will soon find out, but I really don’t think he belongs to a terrorist network. The Sudanese are peaceful people, not violent. This was proved by our peaceful revolution.”
Asked if he knew the two other Sudanese arrested with him, he said that their names were not disclosed by the police so he did not know their identities.
Arab News contacted the French presidency to find out if more information was available on the Sudanese attacker but nothing more was disclosed on Sunday.
David Olivier Reverdy, from the National Police Alliance union, said that Ahmed-Osman asked police to kill him when they came to arrest him. The assailant first went into a tobacco shop where he attacked the owner and his wife, said Mayor Thoraval.
He then went to a butcher’s shop where he seized another knife before heading to the town center and attacking people outside a bakery.


French police target extremist networks after teacher’s beheading

Updated 37 sec ago

French police target extremist networks after teacher’s beheading

  • President Emmanuel Macron: Extremists should not be allowed sleep soundly in our country
  • French teachers have long complained of tensions around religion and identity spilling over into the classroom

PARIS: French police on Monday launched a series of raids targeting extremist networks three days after the beheading of a history teacher who had shown his pupils a cartoon of the Prophet Muhammad.

The operation came a day after tens of thousands of people took part in rallies countrywide to honor history teacher Samuel Paty and defend freedom of expression.

Minister of the Interior Gerald Darmanin said “dozens” of individuals were being probed for suspected radicalization.

While they were “not necessarily linked” to Paty’s killing, the government aimed to send a message that there would be “not a minute’s respite for enemies of the Republic,” he added.

Darmanin said the government would also tighten the noose on NGOs with suspected links to extremist networks.

“Fear is about to change sides,” President Emmanuel Macron told a meeting of key ministers Sunday to discuss a response to the attack.

“Extremists should not be allowed sleep soundly in our country,” he said.

Paty, 47, was attacked on his way home from the junior high school where he taught in Conflans-Sainte-Honorine, 40 kilometers (25 miles) northwest of Paris.

A photo of the teacher and a message confessing to his murder was found on the mobile phone of his killer, an 18-year-old Chechen man Abdullakh Anzorov, who was shot dead by police.

The grisly killing has drawn parallels with the 2015 massacre at Charlie Hebdo satirical magazine, where 12 people, including cartoonists, were gunned down for publishing cartoons mocking Mohammed.

Paty had shown his civics class one of the controversial cartoons.

According to his school, Paty had given Muslim children the option to leave the classroom before he showed the cartoon in a lesson on free speech, saying he did not want their feelings hurt.

The lesson sparked a furor nonetheless and Paty and his school received threats.

Eleven people are being held over his murder, including a known radical and the father of one of Paty’s pupils, who had launched an online campaign against the teacher.

Darmanin accused the two men of having issued a “fatwa” against Paty, using the term for an edict that was famously used to describe the 1989 death sentence handed down against writer Salman Rushdie by Iran’s Ayatollah Khomeini.

Anzorov’s family arrived in France from the predominantly Muslim Russian republic of Chechnya when he was six.

Locals in the Normandy town of Evreux where he lived described him as a loner who had become increasingly religious in recent years.

Police are trying to establish whether he acted alone.

Four members of his family are being held for questioning.

In scenes reminiscent of the aftermath of the Charlie Hebdo attack, when over a million people marched through Paris to defend press freedom, people again gathered at the central Place de la Republique on Sunday to express their horror over Paty’s death.

Some in the crowd chanted “I am Samuel,” echoing the 2015 “I am Charlie” rallying call for free speech.

French teachers have long complained of tensions around religion and identity spilling over into the classroom.

The government has vowed to step up security at schools when pupils return after half-term.

Far-right National Rally leader Marine Le Pen, who laid a wreath outside Paty’s school on Monday, called for “wartime legislation” to combat the terror threat.

Le Pen, who has announced she will make a third bid for the French presidency in 2022, called for an “immediate” moratorium on immigration and for all foreigners on terror watchlists to be deported.

Paty’s beheading was the second knife attack since a trial started last month over the Charlie Hebdo killings.

The magazine republished the cartoons in the run-up to the trial, and last month a young Pakistani man wounded two people with a meat cleaver outside the publication’s old office.