A Pakistani-born teenager admitted stabbing two people with a meat cleaver outside the former Paris offices of Charlie Hebdo magazine, investigators said on Saturday, with nine people now being held for what the government has condemned as “Islamist terrorism” .
The 18-year-old said he wanted to avenge the republication of the cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad by the satirical weekly, which in January 2015 was the target of a massacre perpetrated by Islamist gunmen.
Friday’s attack came three weeks after the trial in Paris of alleged accomplices in the January 2015 attacks against Charlie Hebdo, a policewoman and a Jewish supermarket that left 17 people dead.
While the man allegedly committed the stabbing alone, eight other people are now also under arrest after two other detentions on Saturday.
The two new people arrested were the suspect’s younger brother and another acquaintance, a judicial source said.
The man, who said he was born in Pakistan and was 18, “takes responsibility for his actions,” a source close to the investigation said.
The man said during questioning that he situates his actions “in the context of the republishing of cartoons” of the Prophet Muhammad in Charlie Hebdo on the eve of the opening of the trial.
Charlie Hebdo targeted
Those injured were employees of the award-winning television production agency Premieres Ligne, whose offices are in the same building in central Paris that previously housed Charlie Hebdo.
However, it is not believed that the two, who had taken to the streets for a cigarette break, were specifically targeted.
The man mistakenly believed that the Charlie Hebdo offices were still in this building and wanted to attack the magazine’s journalists, a source close to the investigation told AFP, confirming information first published in the newspaper Le Parisien.
Charlie Hebdo moved its offices after the 2015 attack and its current address is being kept secret for security reasons.
Both victims were seriously injured but their lives are not in danger.
French Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin said on Friday that the attack was “clearly an act of Islamist terrorism”. Counterterrorism prosecutors have opened an investigation.
Five of those detained were in an apartment in Pantin in the northern suburbs of Paris in Seine-Saint-Denis, the alleged last address of the alleged aggressor.
Police also released another man on Friday who was close to the scene of the attack but was confirmed to be a witness who “pursued the assailant,” a judicial source said.
The young man, who arrived from Pakistan three years ago, is said to have lived for the last time in a small apartment in a four-story building in the neighborhood.
“He was very polite. I often saw him sitting on the landing with his phone. He helped me with my groceries,” said a neighbor, who identified herself as Josiane.
‘Could have done better’
Prime Minister Jean Castex on Saturday praised the “efficiency” of the security forces following the attack during a visit to the police headquarters, and declared that “the enemies of the Republic will never win”.
Twelve people, including some of France’s most famous cartoonists, were killed in the attack on Charlie Hebdo’s offices by Islamist gunmen on January 7, 2015.
Charlie Hebdo angered many Muslims around the world by posting caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad in 2006 and, in a gesture of defiance, reprinted some of the cartoons before the trial.
In court are 14 alleged accomplices of brothers Said and Cherif Kouachi, the perpetrators of the 2015 attack on Charlie Hebdo which was claimed by a branch of Al Qaeda.
A policewoman was killed a day later, followed the next day by the murder of four men during a hostage-taking in a Jewish supermarket by gunman Amedy Coulibaly.
The trial reopened one of the most painful chapters in modern French history, with heartbreaking testimonies from survivors and loved ones of those who died.
The magazine received further threats from Al Qaeda this month after reposting the controversial cartoons.
More than 100 French media on Wednesday called for continued support for Charlie Hebdo against what they called “enemies of freedom”.
The centrist government of President Emmanuel Macron has started in recent weeks to use increasingly harsh rhetoric on internal security issues in what analysts see as a shift to the right.
Darmanin admitted the risk of an attack around the old offices had been “underestimated” and said he had demanded an explanation from the police.
“There was an attack, when there was an attack it is obvious that we could have done better,” he said.
(Except for the title, this story was not edited by GalacticGaming staff and is posted from a syndicated feed.)