A bloodstain by a bridge over the Seine river was the only remaining sign on Sunday of a fatal knife attack 12 hours earlier on a German tourist, allegedly carried out by a young man under watch for suspected Islamic radicalization.
The random attack near the Eiffel Tower has drawn special concern for the French capital less than a year before it hosts the Olympic Games, with the opening ceremony due to take place along the river in an unprecedented scenic start in the heart of Paris.
After killing the tourist, the suspect crossed the bridge to the city’s Right Bank and wounded two people with a hammer, Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin said Saturday night. The suspect, who apparently cried “Allahu Akbar” (God is great), was arrested.
Video circulating on the internet showed police officers, weapons drawn, cornering a man dressed in black, his face covered and what appeared to be a knife in his right hand. They twice tasered the suspect before arresting him, Darmanin said.
Questioned by police, the suspect expressed anguish about Muslims dying, notably in Afghanistan and the Palestinian territories, and claimed that France was an accomplice, Darmanin said.
German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock said on X, formerly Twitter, that the news from Paris was “shocking.”
“My thoughts are with the friends and family of the young German man,” she wrote. “Almost his entire life was before him. … Hate and terror have no place in Europe.”
The French interior minister said the suspect was born in 1997 in Neuilly-Sur-Seine, outside Paris. He had been convicted and jailed for four years, until 2020, for planning violence, was under psychiatric treatment, tracked for suspected Islamic radicalization and was on a special list for feared radicals.
The French media widely reported that the man, who lived with his parents in the Essonne region, outside Paris, was of Iranian origin.
The case was turned over to the anti-terrorism prosecutor’s office.
“This person was ready to kill others,” Darmanin told reporters, who along with other government members and President Emmanuel Macron praised police officers for their response.
Well-known emergency doctor Patrick Pelloux, who was among the first at the scene, told BFM-TV there was blood everywhere. Pelloux said he was told by the victim’s entourage that the suspect stopped them to ask for a cigarette, then plunged his knife into the victim. “He aimed at the head, then the back. He knew where to strike,” Pelloux said.
The daily Le Parisien, in an in-depth report published Sunday, said the suspect had a history of contacts via social networks with two men notorious for the gruesome killing of a priest during Mass in 2016 in Saint-Etienne du Rouvray and the man who killed a police couple at their home in Yvelines, west of Paris, a month earlier.
France has been under a heightened terror alert since the fatal stabbing in October of a teacher in the northern city of Arras by a former student originally from the Ingushetia region in Russia’s Caucasus Mountains and suspected of Islamic radicalization. That came three years after another teacher was killed outside Paris, beheaded by a radicalized Chechen later killed by police.
The attack brought into sharp focus authorities’ concern for potential terrorist violence during the 2024 Games.
Just days earlier, the Paris police chief had unveiled detailed plans for the Olympic Games’ security in Paris, with zones where traffic will be restricted and people will be searched. The police chief, Laurent Nunez, said one of their concerns is that vehicles could be used as battering rams to plow through Olympic crowds.