Five associates of assailant in knife attack at French police HQ arrested

A photo taken on Oct 8 shows French President Emmanuel Macron paying tribute to the victims of the Oct 3 knife attack at the headquarters of the Paris police, during a ceremony in Paris.
A photo taken on Oct 8 shows French President Emmanuel Macron paying tribute to the victims of the Oct 3 knife attack at the headquarters of the Paris police, during a ceremony in Paris.PHOTO: EPA-EFE

PARIS (AFP, REUTERS) - Five people associated with the man who carried out a deadly knife attack at the headquarters of the Paris police this month were arrested on Monday (Oct 14), sources said.

Police staged raids at three locations in the northern suburbs of Paris, judicial sources and those close to the investigation said, confirming a report by broadcaster RTL.

Mickael Harpon, a 45-year-old IT specialist with a security clearance, killed three officers and one civilian employee at the police headquarters on Oct 3 before he was shot dead by another police officer.

Harpon was born on the French island of Martinique and had worked at the police headquarters for several years. It later emerged that he had converted to Islam about 10 years ago and started adopting increasingly radical beliefs.

One of the people detained on Monday was an imam who preached at a mosque Harpon attended in Gonesse and who is on France’s “Fiche S” list of potential security risks, one source told AFP.

Last Friday, the mayor of Gonesse announced that the Muslim association which employed the imam, who followed the hard-line Salafist branch of Islam, had dismissed him.

Investigators have found that Harpon, who had access to classified data within the Paris police’s intelligence division, had been in close contact with the imam in the months before his knife rampage.

The killings have raised serious questions about how police failed to notice various signs of Harpon’s radicalisation in recent years, despite France being on high alert over a wave of deadly extremist attacks.

 
 

Investigators also found that Harpon had a USB key holding propaganda videos of the Islamic State group as well as details on dozens of officers, raising fears he intended to pass them to other radicalised Islamists.

But although the IS group mentioned the attack in a weekly propaganda statement last week, it has not claimed responsibility for the attack.

Last week, three sources close to the police said the French police had re-opened an internal investigation into the suspected Islamist sympathies of a senior police officer as part of a security review after the rampage.