PARIS • A man who attacked a policeman with a hammer outside Notre-Dame Cathedral in Paris had pledged allegiance to the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) group in a video, it emerged yesterday, four days after a strike claimed by the terror group in London.
The 40-year-old man was shot and wounded by police on Tuesday, after lunging at the officer in a square full of tourists in front of the cathedral.
The attack, which came with France on high alert after militants killed seven people in London last Saturday, caused panic at one of the country's top visitor attractions. Around 1,000 people were in the cathedral at the time.
The video in which the man pledged allegiance to ISIS was found by police who searched the apartment he was renting in Cergy outside the French capital, the source said.
Get The Straits Times
newsletters in your inbox
During the attack, the man had shouted "This is for Syria", Interior Minister Gerard Collomb said.
France is part of the US-led international coalition fighting ISIS and has carried out air strikes against militants in Syria.
Documents found on the attacker identified him as a 40-year-old Algerian student doing a doctorate on the media at a university in eastern France. He had also been carrying kitchen knives, the Interior Minister said.
New anti-terrorism task force
PARIS • France created a new counter-terrorism task force yesterday, bringing together all the intelligence services, to coordinate the response to attacks, a day after an Algerian student assaulted police officers outside Notre-Dame Cathedral.
President Emmanuel Macron, portrayed by rivals as weak on security during the presidential campaign, ordered the task force to be set up last month to steer France's multiple security agencies from his Elysee Palace offices.
The performance of France's intelligence services has come under close scrutiny since the November 2015 attacks in Paris, when militant gunmen and suicide bombers struck entertainment venues across the capital, killing 130 people.
More than 230 people have been killed in a wave of attacks in France either claimed by or inspired by the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) over the past 21/2 years.
In Tuesday's attack, a 40-year-old Algerian armed with a hammer and kitchen knives wounded a policeman, before being shot by police. A source named the suspect as Farid Ikken, a PhD student of communications registered since 2014 at a university in the French eastern city of Metz.
Mr Macron yesterday appointed Mr Pierre de Bousquet de Florian to head the new task force, the National Centre for Counter Terrorism, that will be under the president's direct authority. The new task force chief once headed France's DST internal intelligence service.
"This has been created to ensure that the intelligence services truly cooperate," said a French presidency official. It will include some 20 people representing the various security services and operate 24/7.
Mr Macron also named career diplomat Bernard Emie, who served as ambassador to Britain, Turkey, Libya and Jordan, as head of the DGSE external intelligence service.
The man was yesterday placed in custody in hospital, where he is being treated for a gunshot wound to the chest. Government spokesman Christophe Castaner said the man had "never shown any sign of radicalisation" before the attack.
The 22-year-old police officer sustained minor neck injuries in the assault.
A witness told AFP he had heard someone "shout very loudly". "Then there was a crowd surge and people panicked. I heard two shots and saw a man lying on the ground in a pool of blood," he said.
Heavily armed elite police had searched his apartment on Tuesday night, an AFP journalist said. A tenant of the apartment building housing students described him as "very quiet".
The suspect's thesis director at the University of Lorraine, where he enrolled in 2014, said he had shown "no outward sign of an excessive adherence to Islam".
"When I knew him, he had a pro-Western, pro-democratic outlook," Mr Arnaud Mercier, who said he had not heard from the suspect since November, told French television channel BFMTV.
Notre Dame, which is situated on the banks of the Seine river in the heart of Paris, draws 13 million visitors a year. Pictures on social media on Tuesday showed people sitting in the pews of the cathedral with their hands in the air - apparently at the request of the authorities and police.