Man with cleaver killed by Paris police on anniversary of Charlie Hebdo attacks
(CNN) — Paris, a city on edge after weathering a year of jihadist violence, faced a fresh scare Thursday as police shot and killed a cleaver-wielding man on the anniversary of the Charlie Hebdo attacks.
French authorities said the man with the weapon was shot as he attempted to enter a police station in the northern Paris neighborhood of Barbes.
The man was shouting “Allahu Akbar,” Interior Ministry spokesman Pierre-Henry Brandet told CNN affiliate BFMTV.
He wore a pouch of what appeared to be explosives, but it turned out to be fake, Paris prosecutor’s spokeswoman Agnes Thibault-Lecuivre told CNN.
The attempted attack near the police station in Goutte D’Or, in the 18th arrondissement, took place on the one-year anniversary of the Charlie Hebdo killings, the first of deadly jihadist attacks that have roiled the French capital over the past 12 months.
In those attacks, two gunmen killed 12 people at the offices of the French satirical magazine, which had angered Islamists for its irreverent approach to Islam and publication of cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed.
Caroline Fourest, former journalist at Charlie Hebdo, responded like many Parisians with weary resignation to Thursday’s attempt — a reflection that such incidents had become “the new normal” in France over the past year.
“We know that ISIL or al Qaeda is encouraging (such attacks) in Europe, not only in France,” she told CNN, using another name for ISIS. “So we’re fortunate to see when those attacks are failing.”
Europe was “just at the beginning” of weathering the threat from jihadism, she said.
“We know that it’s going to be this way for the next years as long as the people who are giving orders from Syria are not disconnected.”
Speculation over motive
In the aftermath of the shooting, there was a heavy police presence around the scene, with officers advising residents to remain indoors and attempting to clear the area. Residents gathered at a cordon along the street seeking to enter their homes.
At the Polyvalent de la Goutte d’Or, a school on the same street as the police station, students were confined in the building, school director Eric Denis told CNN.
Parisians, already wary on a highly sensitive anniversary, speculated about whether the attacker was a lone wolf, a disturbed individual or possibly the first wave of the kind of coordinated attacks that struck in November.
Terrorism expert Jean-Charles Brisard, president of the Center for Analysis of Terrorism, noted the attack occurred in Paris’ 18th arrondissement, which could have a symbolic connection to the ISIS-claimed November attacks that killed 130 people.
The terror group’s claim of responsibility for the November killings referred to an operation in the 18th arrondissement, but none occurred there. The group’s statement, along with a reference to eight attackers when there had only been seven, led to speculation an eighth jihadist had planned an attack in the district but backed out.
Regis Le Sommier, co-editor of Paris Match magazine, said he was inclined to think the latest attack was self-directed, rather than coordinated by the central command of ISIS or another terror group, since it took place on the anniversary of the Charlie Hebdo assault.
Since 9/11, he said, jihadists had not shown any particular interest in striking on the anniversaries of terror attacks despite the sensitivities around the dates. “That probably makes me think that he decided to do it on his own,” he told CNN.