PARIS — French police officers fatally shot a man who was wielding a cleaver and yelling “Allahu akbar” as he tried to attack a police station in northern Paris today, setting off alarms as France marked the one-year anniversary of the terrorist attack on the satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo. Twelve people were killed in that attack.
The man, who has not been identified, arrived in front of the police station on the Rue de la Goutte d’Or at 11:30 a.m. today with a meat cleaver, wearing what turned out to be a fake explosives belt. He then brandished the knife and yelled “Allahu akbar,” Arabic for “God is great,” before police officers opened fire. Witnesses said the officers had ordered the man several times to stop and step back before shooting him.
The office of the Paris prosecutor, François Molins, today confirmed that the assailant’s fingerprints matched those of a man who was convicted of theft in southern France in 2013.
The man told police at the time that he was named Sallah Ali, that he was born in Casablanca, Morocco, in 1995, and that he was homeless, the prosecutor’s office said.
The attack prompted the temporary closing of schools, shops and streets. The man’s body lay on the sidewalk outside the police station for more than an hour and 20 minutes, covered with a white cloth. A robot was deployed, and after that, two dogs. An investigator wearing heavy gear then inspected the man’s jacket before determining it was a fake suicide vest.
Investigators found a cellphone on the man, a piece of paper with the flag of the Islamic State on it, and an “unequivocal handwritten claim of responsibility” in Arabic, according to Molins’ office. Police are investigating whether Ali had any real ties to the Islamic State.
Molins did not detail the content of the handwritten claim, but French news media reported the man had pledged allegiance to the Islamic State and had written that he was avenging French “attacks in Syria.”