France’s interior minister has promised to protect the country’s Jewish community from extremists after a double stabbing in Paris blamed on Islamic terrorism.
Gerald Darmanin visited a synagogue on Sunday ahead of the evening start of Yom Kippur, the Jewish Day of Atonement, and said more than 7,000 police and soldiers were protecting Jewish services this weekend. France has Europe's largest Jewish community.
“I came to assure . . . members of France’s Jewish community of the protection of the state,” Mr Darmanin told reporters. “Because we know that Jews are particularly targeted by Islamist attacks and we should obviously protect them.”
Mr Darmanin defended authorities' handling of a double stabbing on Friday outside the former offices of the satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo, saying intelligence services had prevented 32 potential terrorist attacks over the past three years.
Co-ordinated Islamic extremist attacks on Charlie Hebdo’s Paris newsroom and a kosher supermarket in January 2015 killed 17 people, and Friday’s stabbing came with the trial around those attacks under way.
The suspected assailant in Friday’s attack told investigators that he was targeting Charlie Hebdo after it recently republished caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad, according to a judicial official. Two people were wounded and several suspects are in custody.
One suspect arrested after Friday’s stabbing was later released – and his lawyer says that he had tried to stop the assailant and should be considered a hero instead.
Lawyer Lucie Simon told France-Info that her client, a 33-year-old French resident from Algeria identified only as Youssef, chased the attacker. Ms Simon said the assailant threatened Youssef with a kitchen cleaver, so Youssef fled and told police – who promptly arrested him.
The chief suspect told investigators he carried out the attack in anger over caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad recently republished by Charlie Hebdo, a judicial official has said. Two people were wounded and seven are in custody after Friday’s attack with a meat cleaver outside the newspaper’s former offices in eastern Paris, which counter-terrorism authorities are investigating as an Islamic extremist attack.
The suspect had been arrested a month ago for carrying a screwdriver, but was not on police radar for Islamic radicalisation, Mr Darmanin said. He said the screwdriver was considered a weapon, but did not explain why.
The suspect arrived in France three years ago as an unaccompanied minor, apparently from Pakistan, but his identity was still being verified, the minister said. Seven others were detained in the aftermath of Friday’s attack, but one has been released, the official said.
Five of those in custody were detained in the Paris suburb of Pantin where the suspect is believed to have lived. The two people wounded in Friday’s attack were a woman and a man working at the Premieres Lignes documentary production company who had stepped outside for a smoke.
Company co-founder Luc Hermann told broadcaster France-Info they remained in hospital but their condition was “reassuring”. Prime minister Jean Castex, visiting Paris police headquarters on Saturday, pledged to step up the fight against terrorism, saying: “The enemies of the republic will not win.” – AP