French suspected Islamist ‘planned knife and machete attack’ on English and American tourists
Police cordon off a street near the site of the killing of a police officer in Magnanville in suburban Paris
Henry Samuel, Paris
16 June 2016 • 5:40pm
A radicalised 22-year old has been arrested in southwestern France with a knife and machete on suspicion of intending to attack “English and American tourists, then security forces”, according to French reports.
Officers from France’s intelligence agency, DGSI, arrested the terror suspect on Monday night at the train station of Carcassonne, a fortified town an hour’s drive from Toulouse – where four matches of the Euro 2016 football tournament are taking place.
Fireworks light up the medieval Cite de Carcassonne southwestern France
According to La Dépêche du Midi, the local newspaper, the unnamed suspect was on a security “S” watch list for potentially dangerous individuals, including would-be jihadists.
He “confessed to investigators that he wanted to attack English and American tourists, before launching an attack on security forces – police and military,” wrote Le Dépêche.
According to Le Parisien, the man also said he intended to target Russians.
Arrested with an “Opinel knife and machete”, he is being held for questioning under suspicion of “links to criminals planning a terrorist act”.
The suspect reportedly comes from Lunel, a town that has been dubbed the “Molenbeek” of the southwestern Hérault region, in reference to the Brussels district home to several of the perpetrators of the Paris attacks of last November, and those in the Belgian capital in March.
At least 20 individuals aged between 18 and 30 have travelled from Lunel to fight alongside Islamists in Syria and Iraq since October 2014, including eight who have died there. More have been prevented from leaving by French intelligence.
According to a source close to the inquiry, the suspect has a history of psychiatric problems and has been diagnosed as schizophrenic, but is considered nonetheless “truly radicalised” with a “serious profile”.
The suspect, who police say became radicalised in 2014 via jihadist Internet propaganda, has been transferred to anti-terror headquarters in Paris, according to France TV Info.
Reports of the arrest came two days after another man with known psychiatric problems – also a schizophrenic – stabbed a 19-year-old girl three times in western France, telling police he had heard voices ordering him to make a “sacrifice” for Ramadan, the Rennes prosecutor said.
“Voices told him that he had to make a sacrifice on the occasion of Ramadan,” the holy Muslim fasting month that began on June 6, prosecutor Nicolas Jacquet told AFP.
The 32-year-old man was immediately assessed by a doctor and sent to a psychiatric hospital after stabbing the girl twice in the wrist and once in the abdomen, Mr Jacquet said, adding that the teenager’s wounds are not life-threatening.
An investigation has been opened into attempted murder.
That attack came a day after a jihadist killed a French police couple in a small town near Paris, in a stabbing inspired by the Islamic State group.
Jean-Baptiste Salvaing, right, and his partner Jessica Schneider, were stabbed to death near their home in Magnanville, France
Police are reportedly looking into whether Larossi Abballa, 25, who was under surveillance after serving time for links to jihadist networks, knew his victims, Jean-Baptiste Salvaing, 42, and his partner Jessica Schneider, 36. They were stabbed to death near their home in Magnanville while their three-year old son was found physically unharmed but in shock.
Abballa urged followers to turn Euro 2016 into a “graveyard” and was carrying a hit list of VIPs, who are now under police protection.
Police sources told Le Monde that Abballa had told a negotiator: “He (Salvaing) came into my home, now I’m coming into his.”
The slain policeman may have crossed Abballa, who had several previous convictions for petty crimes, as he operated in the area where the murderer was brought up and lived.
In the wake of the attack in Magnanville, police unions said officers will now be able to carry weapons while off-duty beyond a state of emergency that was declared after the November attacks, but which is due to expire next month.