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France

Chinese citizen among wounded in deadly Paris knife attack claimed by Islamic State

Attack took place in the heart of the French capital, in a district popular with tourists for its many restaurants and cafes, landmark retail stores, and the Paris opera

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 13 May, 2018, 4:02am
UPDATED : Sunday, 13 May, 2018, 10:24pm

The knifeman who killed one man and wounded four including a Chinese citizen Saturday night in Paris had been on an anti-terror watch list of suspected extremists, sources close to the inquiry said.

The Frenchman, born in 1997 in the Russian republic of Chechnya, was on the so-called “S file” of people suspected of radicalised views who could pose security risks, the sources said, though he did not have a criminal record.

The watch list includes potentially dangerous religious extremists but also leftist and far-right activists. A separate list, the File for the Prevention of Terrorist Radicalisation (FSPRT), focuses on people judged to be terror threats.

Police shot and killed the man soon after being alerted to the attack on the Rue Monsigny, a lively neighbourhood of theatres and restaurants near the main opera house in Paris.

A police source said one officer tried to restrain the attacker with a taser but when that failed a colleague shot the man dead.

Authorities identified the attacker as 20-year-old Khamzat A., who grew up with his family in Strasbourg, home to a large community of Chechen refugees, a source said.

His parents were taken into custody and the family’s home in the 18th Arrondissement was searched.

A French judicial official said a friend of the attacker has been detained for questioning in Strasbourg.

Witnesses said they heard him shout “Allahu akbar” (God is great) as Parisians fled into restaurants and bars after realising another possible terror attack was underway in a country already reeling from a string of extremist assaults that have killed more than 245 people in the last three years.

“I was taking orders and I saw a young woman trying to get into the restaurant in panic,” Jonathan, a waiter at a Korean restaurant, said.

The woman was bleeding and a young man fended off the attacker who then ran away, he said.

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“The attacker entered a shopping street, I saw him with a knife in his hand,” he said. “He looked crazy.”

Milan, 19, said he saw “several people in distress” including a woman with wounds to her neck and leg.

“Firefighters were giving her first aid. I heard two, three shots and a policeman told me that the man had been overpowered.”

In a tweet, French President Emmanuel Macron said: “France once again pays the price of blood.”

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The assailant had no identifying documents on him. A source with knowledge of the case said he was a young man with brown hair and a beard who was dressed in black tracksuit trousers.

Islamic State claimed responsibility, according to the SITE monitoring group, but provided no proof to back their assertion.

“The executor of the stabbing operation in the city of Paris is a soldier of the Islamic State and the operation was carried out in response to the calls to target the coalition states,” a “security source” told IS’s official Amaq news agency, according to SITE.

One Chinese citizen was injured during the attack, according to the Chinese embassy in Paris.

The embassy said in a statement on its website that the injured Chinese was not in critical condition and was visited by staff on Sunday morning.

French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe said police were on the scene “within five minutes” of the attack and that some nine minutes later the assailant was dead, he added.

“The speed of the response obviously avoided a heavier toll,” he said.

A state of emergency put in place just after the 2015 Paris attacks was lifted in October when Macron’s centrist government passed a new law boosting the powers of security forces.

Thousands of French troops remain on the streets under an anti-terror operation known as Sentinelle, patrolling transport hubs, tourist hotspots and other sensitive sites.

Additional reporting by Nectar Gan