PARIS (AFP) - The knifeman who killed one man and wounded four other people Saturday (May 12) night in Paris had been on an anti-terror watchlist of suspected extremists, sources close to the inquiry told AFP on Sunday.
The Frenchman, born in 1997 in the Russian republic of Chechnya, was on the so-called “S file” of people suspected of radicalised views who could pose security risks, the sources said, though he did not have a criminal record.
Police shot and killed the man shortly after being alerted to the attack on the Rue Monsigny, a lively neighbourhood of theatres and restaurants near the main opera house in Paris.
One of the five people he attacked later died, police said. Two were in serious condition and all the victims are in hospital.
Witnesses said they heard the man yelling “Allahu akbar” (God is greatest) as people fled the scene. His parents have been taken into custody. Investigators have not yet said when the man arrived in France.
Many but not all of the people on France’s S file (the ‘S’ stands for security) have been involved in the series of deadly jihadist attacks that have killed some 245 people across the country since 2015.
The watchlist contains anyone suspected of being a radical, including potentially dangerous religious extremists but also leftist and far-right activists.
A separate list, the File for the Prevention of Terrorist Radicalisation (FSPRT), focuses on people judged to be terror threats. That list currently has nearly 20,000 people, of whom about half are under active surveillance.
The Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) group has claimed responsibility for Saturday's attack, according to the SITE monitoring group.
“The executor of the stabbing operation in the city of Paris is a soldier of the Islamic State and the operation was carried out in response to the calls to target the coalition states,” a “security source” told ISIS' official Amaq news agency, according to SITE.
French President Emmanuel Macron said: "France once again pays the price of blood."
Prosecutors said a terror investigation had been launched.
Interior Minister Gerard Collomb hailed in a tweet the "sang-froid and reaction of the police who neutralised the attacker." A large area was cordoned-off where police, fire and rescue vehicles converged.
Shocked tourists and residents looked on from behind the security perimeter.
"I was on the cafe terrace, I heard three, four shots, it happened very fast," said 47-year-old Gloria.
"Then the bartenders told us to come inside very quickly. Then I went out to see what was going on, and then I saw a man on the ground," she added.
Police said the attacker's motives were still unknown.
The attack comes as France is under a constant threat from terrorism. A string of militant attacks have claimed the lives of over 245 people around France in the past three years.