After the knife attack in the Paris police headquarters on Thursday, anti-terrorism specialists of the prosecutor's office have taken over the investigation. The reason for this is the analysis of the mobile phone of the attacker. More importantly, this rampage appears to be a massive vetting failure by the French police.
The perpetrator was a police officer who stabbed four colleagues before he was shot. At first, investigators considered “mental illness” to be a motive and French Interior Minister Christophe Castaner had excluded a terrorist background in the hours after the crime.
However, after the Islamist attack on the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo in 2015, the perpetrator had praised the attackers.
The Metro newspaper in the UK is reporting that when police raided Mikhaël Harpon’s home after the attack where he lived with his Muslim wife, they found evidence that Harpon had been in contact with either ISIS or other Islamic terror groups on his phone. Police have since arrested his wife, Ilham.
After the purchase of the murder weapon, the suspect had informed his wife with a short message. According to the newspaper Le Parisien, she wrote back: “Only God will judge you.” In addition, he is said to have told her before the attack of hearing voices. She is still in police custody.
Paris has repeatedly been the target of Islamist terrorist attacks in recent years. In May 2018, a knife attacker in Paris killed a man and injured four people. In November, terrorists killed a total of 130 people in the attack on the Bataclan concert hall in the French capital.
Various media outlets reported that the suspect had converted to Islam 18 months ago. The news agency dpa, cited the judiciary and the French media. But some neighbours believe that the aggressor had converted to Islam “longer than 18 months ago”.
Testimonies have accumulated against Mickaël Harpon. His neighbours in Gonesse, Val-d’Oise, explained having heard him shout “Allah Akbar”, reported Le Figaro.
The killer’s neighbour, also a policeman, claims to have heard him shout this twice “around 3-4 am” and that it had awakened him. This voice came from the apartment of Mickaël Harpon according to the testimony.
Other neighbors also say that the killer had converted to Islam “longer than 18 months ago” and “in any case he had been practicing it for a long time”. He had frequented the mosque of Fauconnière, in Gonesse.
Another neighbor, a former policeman at police headquarters, testified that he saw Mickaël Harpon very early in the morning, dressed in an Islamic djellaba, going to the mosque to pray, accompanied by two other people.
According to BFMTV, the author of the attack on the police headquarters of Paris actually converted eleven years ago, contradicting the first information revealed in the press. This is a particularly sordid affair with multiple other twists. According to BFMTV Harpon had converted to Islam in 2008, or eleven years ago.
Worse still, is that the assailant had already been the subject of a “report” after the attack against Charlie Hebdo in January 2015, according to Le Parisien, on Friday, October 4. According to police sources quoted by BFMTV, several people interviewed claimed that he had legitimized the attacks in 2015.
The national anti-terrorist prosecutor’s office had opened the investigation following these preliminary findings by the Criminal Brigade.
The latest investigation was launched as a case of “murder and attempted assassination of a person in authority of a public authority in relation to a terrorist enterprise”, as well as for “criminal terrorist conspiracy”.
The custody of his companion was extended on Friday. At the couple’s home in Gonesse, a search of more than six hours was carried out in the afternoon following the events. Harpon was shot in the courtyard of the Paris police headquarters, where he had been employed for 20 years.
At a press conference held the same the afternoon, the Minister of the Interior, Christophe Castaner, said the suspect was a man who had “never presented behavioral difficulties” at all. “Everyone is surprised. He was a man without a history, he has never been violent.”
The media portrayed Harpon as an “administrative agent” working in the computer department of the Paris police headquarters, but he belonged more specifically to the “intelligence service, the Intelligence Directorate of the police headquarters, where all the agents are thoroughly investigated before their integration,” noted journalist Louis de Raguenel, citing a police source. Thus, he worked in a section of the police service dedicated to collecting information on jihadist radicalization.
The cruel irony is that Mickaël has a younger brother who is a police officer, according to information obtained by Valeurs Actuelles. While some police sources speak of “an internal conflict”, Mickaël H “did not kill his superior” Louis de Raguenel pointed out.
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