France stabbing suspect: ‘I just killed a police officer’

In a video released by the Islamic State group and recorded in the suburban Paris home of his victims, a former jihadi recruiter confessed to killing a police officer and his partner and listed other prominent people he planned to target.

PARIS — In a video released by the Islamic State group and recorded in the suburban Paris home of his victims, a former jihadi recruiter confessed to killing a police officer and his partner and listed other prominent people he planned to target.

The attack late Monday touched already raw nerves. It recalled elements of the Orlando killings days earlier, and revived French concerns about the IS threat after the group targeted Paris in November, killing 130 people. A state of emergency is still in place, and 90,000 security forces are now deployed to protect the European Championship soccer tournament taking place across France.

On Tuesday, French President Francois Hollande urged heightened vigilance after what he said was “incontestably a terrorist act.”

The video reflects a pattern within IS of individuals pledging allegiance and then staging attacks that the extremist group calls its own — and the violence shows the group’s continued ability to attract followers despite being under attack in Syria, Iraq and Libya.

It was as surprising as it was bloody.

The suspect, Larossi Abballa, a 25-year-old Frenchman once convicted of jihadi recruitment for Pakistan, staked out off-duty police commander Jean-Baptiste Savaing and stabbed him in front of his house in the suburb of Magnanville, about 35 miles (55 kilometres) west of Paris, according to police.

Abballa then entered Savaing’s house and stabbed his partner, a 36-year-old police administrator in the gunman’s hometown, then took their 3-year-old son hostage, Prosecutor Francois Molins said. For about three hours, police surrounded the building as Abballa first made demands — and then apparently made the video.

About an hour after the video was posted on Facebook, police stormed the house, killing Abballa and rescuing the child, Molins told reporters.

Abballa’s Facebook page was taken down, but the Islamic State group’s Amaq news agency later released the video, which appears to have been filmed inside the couple’s home.

“I just killed a police officer and his wife,” he says, adding: “The police are currently surrounding me.” He then listed other planned targets, including rappers, journalists, police officers and police officials.

Unusually, the video was edited. The victims do not appear.

The timing may not have been coincidental: The killings came after IS urged supporters to act in Europe or America during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, which is currently under way.

Abballa made the declaration of allegiance to Islamic State in response to IS calls to “kill non-believers where they live,” and with their families, Molins said.

Salvaing, 42, was a police commander in the Paris suburb of Les Mureaux his partner has not been identified. Authorities have not said whether there was any link between Abballa and the victims.

The main question for anti-terrorism investigators now is whether Abballa had accomplices or was part of a larger network. Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve said late Tuesday on France 2 TV that it appeared at this early stage “most probable” that Abballa acted alone, though that must be confirmed by the investigation.

Earlier in the day, three people –ages 27, 29 and 44 — were detained in the investigation, Molins said. Two had been convicted with Abballa in 2013 for involvement in a network recruiting for jihad in Pakistan, a French official said.

Hollande said after an emergency security meeting Tuesday that France faces a threat “of a very large scale,” then added: “France is not the only country concerned (by the terrorist threat), as we have seen, again, in the United States, in Orlando.”

Abballa was from the western Paris suburb of Mantes-la-Jolie, and lived in a well-kept, working class neighbourhood where shaken residents described puzzlement at the attack.

Police raided the apartment building where he lived with his parents and a sister, according to a young resident who did not want to be identified. Later police raided another building in a nearby housing project, surrounding it and searching for several hours.

Another neighbour, Henriette Yenge, said she would say hello to Abballa when he went to the mosque around the corner.

“He was a neighbourhood kid,” she told The Associated Press. “I was surprised it was him. It’s sad to see things like that.”

Hours before the killing, Abballa went to his neighbourhood mosque and prayed so long that mosque employees had to make him leave. Rector Mohamed Droussi said Abballa was reading the Qur’an for hours and was the last to leave. “I took the key and I said, ‘we are closing,”‘ Droussi said.

Droussi said he is concerned about radicalization, and the mosque often addresses the issue, to urge “the youth to stay on the right path.”

A Facebook profile bearing the name Larossi Abballa — which vanished from the internet early Tuesday — showed a photo of a smiling, bearded young man. Two recent posts featured videos critical of Israel and Saudi Arabia. The last publicly available post was a mock-up of the European Championship logo, highlighting what it said were masonic and occult symbols.

“Some will say we see evil everywhere!” Abballa said in a message posted about 18 hours before the attack.

Facebook declined to discuss the episode except to say in a brief statement: “We are working closely with the French authorities as they deal with this terrible crime. Terrorists and acts of terrorism have no place on Facebook. Whenever terrorist content is reported we remove it as quickly as possible. We treat take-down requests by law enforcement with the highest urgency.”

The social networking company has previously said it doesn’t automatically screen material that’s posted on its site, but it provides ways for users to report content they believe is in violation of the site’s rules. Facebook rules forbid posts by terrorist groups or that support terrorist groups or violence, or that “celebrate” crimes.

IS has deftly used social media and gotten around rules to spread its violent message, however. Such online videos of bloodshed have been a marker of past attacks in France, from Mohamed Merah’s attacks on a Jewish school in Toulouse in 2012 to Amedy Coulibaly’s attack on a kosher market last year.

“ISIS has codified these lone-wolf attacks, one of the codes being that attackers must publicly pledge allegiance to the caliph,”‘ said Michael Horowitz, a senior analyst with the Levantine Group.

France, like other countries in Europe, has seen a series of stabbings targeting police officers or soldiers and carried out by Muslim radicals.

Monday night’s attack shook police officers, and Cazeneuve said they would be allowed to take home their service weapons.

“Today every police officer is a target,” Yves Lefebvre of police union Unite SGP Police-FO told the AP.

Just Posted

An incredible closing ceremony capped off the 2019 Canada Winter Games. (File photo by SUSAN JUDGE/2019 Canada Winter Games)
2019 Canada Winter Games Legacy Fund Society hands out $655,000

35 not-for-profit groups across Alberta to get money

There were six additional deaths across Alberta reported over the past 24 hours, bringing the death toll to 1,926 since the beginning of the pandemic. (File photo)
Alberta’s health-care system under ‘significant stress,’ says AHS president

The head of Alberta Health Services says hospital staff are treating more… Continue reading

The Red Deer Rebels have acquired goaltender Connor Ungar from the Brandon Wheat Kings, the team announced Monday. (File photo by Advocate staff)
Red Deer Rebels acquire goaltender Connor Ungar, forward Liam Keeler in separate trades

The Red Deer Rebels have acquired goaltender Connor Ungar from the Brandon… Continue reading

Red Deer musician Curtis Phagoo is glad the Alberta government is investing $2 million to help the province’s live music industry, but he would have liked the criteria to be expanded, so the money could be used as relief to cover revenue shortfalls. (Contributed photo by Cory Michaud)
Red Deer musicians welcome $2M in grants to help live music, but would have preferred relief program

The money is for future projects and can’t be used for retroactive expenses

Conservative Leader Erin O'Toole holds a press conference in Ottawa on Thursday, May 13, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Liberals silent on nature of Fortin probe or who will replace him on vaccine campaign

OTTAWA — The Liberal government is scrambling to reassure Canadians that the… Continue reading

A woman attends a vigil in front of the hospital where Joyce Echaquan died in Joliette, Que., on Tuesday, Sept. 29, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson
Hospital staff testify today at Quebec coroner’s inquiry into death of Joyce Echaquan

TROIS-RIVIÈRES, Que. — Medical staff from a Quebec hospital where Joyce Echaquan… Continue reading

Natural Resources Minister Seamus O’Regan responds to a question during Question Period in the House of Commons in Ottawa on February 17, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Ottawa looking for 2,000 new energy auditors to get home retrofit program going

OTTAWA — The federal government is looking to train 2,000 more people… Continue reading

A person waits outside a COVID-19 testing clinic in Montreal, Sunday, May 9, 2021, as the COVID-19 pandemic continues in Canada and around the world. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes
Ontario opens shots to 18+, Quebec opens drive-thru, as COVID vaccine efforts expand

Quebec is opening a drive-thru vaccine clinic at its busiest airport and… Continue reading

Calgary Flames players celebrate the team's overtime win against the Vancouver Canucks during an NHL hockey game in Vancouver, B.C., Sunday, May 16, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Lindholm OT winner gives Flames 6-5 win over Canucks despite blowing four-goal lead

VANCOUVER — In a game with little to play for besides pride,… Continue reading

In this photo taken on May 13, 2021, Russia's performer, Manizha, smiles during an interview after rehearsing at the Eurovision Song Contest at Ahoy arena in Rotterdam, Netherlands. For many, the stage and global television audience of millions is a chance to express messages of inclusion, strength and positivity. Manizha has a message of strength for women in her song whose lyrics include the lines: "Every Russian Woman. Needs to know. You're strong enough to bounce against the wall." (AP Photo/Peter Dejong)
Eurovision Song Contest returns despite coronavirus pandemic

ROTTERDAM, Netherlands (AP) — Pounding beats? Check. Uplifting lyrics? Check. Huge, backlit… Continue reading

Serena Williams of the United States returns the ball to Italy's Lisa Pigato during their match at the Emilia Romagna Open tennis tournament, in Parma, Monday, May 17, 2021. Serena Williams earned her first victory in more than three months by beating 17-year-old qualifier Lisa Pigato 6-3, 6-2 in the first round of the Emilia-Romagna Open. Williams accepted a wild-card invitation for the Parma tournament after losing her opening match at the Italian Open last week. (AP Photo/Marco Vasini)
Serena Williams posts 1st victory in more than 3 months

PARMA, Italy (AP) — Serena Williams earned her first victory in more… Continue reading

In this Oct. 21, 2014 file photo, people pass an AT&T store in New York's Times Square. AT&T will combine its media operations that include CNN HBO, TNT and TBS in a $43 billion deal with Discovery, the owner of lifestyle networks including the Food Network and HGTV. The deal announced Monday, May 17, 2021, would create a separate media company as households increasingly abandon cable and satellite TV, looking instead at Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Facebook, TikTok and YouTube. (AP Photo/Richard Drew, File)
AT&T, Discovery join media brands as cord-cutting encroaches

NEW YORK (AP) — AT&T will combine its massive media operations that… Continue reading

Most Read