Paris Attacker Had Been Arrested by French Police on Terrorism Suspicions

French Police officers stand guard after the terrorist attack near the Champs Elysees in Paris, France, 20 April 2017. Photo: Ian Langsdon/EPA/REX/Shutterstock

  • Attacker in Paris terrorist attack had been arrested on terrorism suspicions.
  • Second suspect is being wanted by the French police.
  • At least one of the suspects may be related to Belgium, based on an identification by ISIS.

The gunman who committed a terrorist attack on the Champs-Elysees avenue in France’s capital Paris had already been arrested on suspicions that he was planning to kill police offi cers, French authorities revealed.

The attacker murdered one police officer and wounded to others before he was shot dead by police on Thursday night in an attacked claimed by ISIS (the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria).

The latest terrorist attack in France, the sixth in Paris in the past three years, came three days before the 2017 French presidential elections.

Known Attacker

The gunman was known to the police, and had been arrested in February on suspicion of planning to kill officers, before being released due to lack of evidence, France24 reported.

“The identity of the attacker is known and has been verified,” French prosecutor Francois Molins told reporters.

French authorities have declined to provide additional details of the attacker, who was armed with an AK-47 automatic rifle.

The killer, identified as a 39-year-old French man, was known to anti-terror police, sources told AFP.

The suspect was convicted in 2005 on three counts of attempted murder, with two of these against police officers, sources said.

A statement from the ISIS terrorist group published by its propaganda agency Amaq said the attacker was “one of the Islamic State’s fighters”.

The Amaq statement identified the attacker as Abu Yussef al-Balgiki. According to France24’s expert on jihadist groups, Wassim Nasr, as ISIS is known to use noms de guerre, which identify the nationality of the attacker or the “brigade” to which they belong, the term “Balgiki” suggested the attacker either resided or spent time in Belgium.

A Belgian prosecutor announced on Friday said there was no indication the Paris attacker was Belgian.

Raids took place at his address in the quiet, middle-class suburb of Chelles in the department of Seine-et-Marne, east of Paris.

A French soldier stands guard during ongoing police operations after the terrorist attack near the Champs Elysees in Paris, France, 20 April 2017. Photo: Etienne Laurent/ EPA/REX/Shutterstock

Second Suspect

French police on Friday were hunting a new suspect in connection with the shooting, according to a French Interior Ministry spokesman.

The second suspect was identified by Belgian security officials and flagged to French authorities, French Interior Ministry spokesman Pierre-Henry Brandet told Europe 1 on Friday morning.

ISIS could have named the wrong fighter as Abu Yussef al-Balgiki, meaning the later could be free, Wassim Nasr noted in a Twitter post.

Because of the terrorist attack in Paris, the three top candidates in the French elections – far-right candidate Marine Le Pen, her centrist rival Emmanuel Macron, and scandal-hit conservative Francois Fillon – immediately cancelled campaign events planned for Friday.

Over the past two years, France has been hit by over 20 terrorist attacks causing over 240 deaths, which are claimed to have been organized by ISIS, or linked to it.

The most shocking of those have been the mass shooting at the office of the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo in January 2015 which claimed 17 lives, the November 2015 shooting in Paris which claimed 130 lives (the single deadliest terrorist attack in French history), and the cargo truck plowing through crowds celebrating the 2016 Bastille Day, France’s national holiday, in Nice, which resulted in 86 deaths.

Ever since the Charlie Hebdo terrorist attack in January 2015, French soldiers have been patrolling the streets in Paris and other cities under Operation “Sentinel”.

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