Man Wielding Knife Kills 1 and Wounds 4 in Terrorist Attack in Paris
Posted May 12, 2018 8:19 p.m. EDT
PARIS — A man armed with a knife attacked five people in a neighborhood near the Paris Opera, according to French police, killing one and wounding four, two of them seriously.
Hours later, the Islamic State claimed responsibility, describing the attacker as a “soldier of the Islamic State.” President Emmanuel Macron called the assailant, who was killed by police, a “terrorist.”
The Paris prosecutor’s office, which handles all terrorism cases, is taking over the investigation. The prosecutor, François Molins, gave a brief news conference near the scene of the attack. He confirmed that the attacker, whose name has not yet been released, had shouted “Allahu akbar,” Arabic for “God is Great,” during the assault.
The attack happened about 600 yards from the Palais Garnier, the home of the Paris Opera, on the right bank of the Seine, an area popular with both tourists and Parisians, especially on a Saturday night when the bars and restaurants there are often full until the early morning hours.
A waiter, Amine Belkacem, 50, who was serving diners in a Moroccan restaurant, said he saw young people running away from the scene. He asked them what was going on, and they told him they had heard shots and fled.
Belkacem said he then saw a man running down the street who tried to stab someone in a taxi.
Jules, 17, who refused to give his last name, was waiting in line outside a Japanese restaurant with his mother and aunt when he heard shouts. He rushed inside the restaurant, where customers were already hiding under the tables.
A few minutes later, he said, he saw three police officers rush toward the assailant, who took a knife out of his pants’ pocket.
“I was so scared, I put my head on the floor,” Jules said, adding that he did not see what happened next. “I’m so shocked. I don’t know how I’ll be able to sleep tonight.”
Milan Charollois, 19, who lives on a street adjacent to where at least one of the stabbings took place, was coming home when people told him that a woman had been stabbed. He rushed to the scene and saw a woman he thought was probably in her 60s, who had been stabbed in her leg and near her neck. She was pale and people were gathered around her pressing their hands on her neck where blood was coming out, he said.
Alexis Bergoin, 24, was drinking wine with his mother and friends of hers on the terrace of a bistro when he saw police cars rushing to the street’s corners.
The bar owner told all the guests to hide inside, and Bergoin rushed to the bathroom. After he heard gunshots, he went outside and saw the body of a man lying on the street.
“Even the bar owners know what do to now. Actually, we all know what to do,” Bergoin said.
The claim of responsibility, issued by the Islamic State’s Amaq News Agency, described the attacker as having carried out the violence “in response to calls to target coalition countries,” referring to the U.S.-led coalition that is battling the Islamic State.
That phrase is a reference to a speech by the group’s now-deceased spokesman, which incited followers around the world to carry out attacks wherever they found themselves, using any means, from knives to trucks. The inclusion of this phrase in the claim suggests the attacker was remotely inspired by the Islamic State, as opposed to dispatched by the group directly.
In a Twitter post, Macron sent his condolences to the wounded and their families and congratulated the French security forces.
“All my thoughts go to the victims and the wounded of the knife attack perpetrated tonight in Paris, as well as to their relatives,” he wrote. “I salute on behalf of all the French the courage of the policemen who have neutralized the terrorist.”
He added: “France once again paid the price in blood but did not give an inch to the enemies of freedom.” France has faced numerous terrorist attacks since January 2015, when the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo was invaded by two gunmen who killed 12 people. Two days later, another gunman attacked a kosher grocery, killing four. Later that year, on Nov. 13, multiple attacks in and around Paris killed 130 people.
Since then France has tightened its terrorism laws, expanded intelligence collection, and its police and gendarmes have moved aggressively to halt attacks as quickly as possible.
Prime Minister Édouard Philippe praised the quick reaction of police to Saturday’s attack.
“Within nine minutes after the first call, the assailant was neutralized,” Philippe said in a post on Twitter. “Our police forces have once again demonstrated their remarkable mastery and ability to intervene.”
The security forces faced criticisms for not moving quickly enough to stop the attackers at the Bataclan concert hall in November 2015, where 90 people were killed.
Although there has not been an attack with mass casualties since a truck attack in Nice in the summer of 2016, which killed 86 people, the country remains on high alert and there have been many attacks with smaller numbers of dead and wounded.