A Sudanese national in the French town of Romans-sur-Isere, just south of Lyon, went on a rampage Saturday on a busy street attacking 7 people, killing two and wounding five.
Police arrested him without incident when he was found kneeling on the ground “praying in the Arabic language.”
In a press release, the Counterterrorism Prosecutor’s office revealed that “handwritten documents with religious overtones in which the author of the lines complained in particular of living in a country of disbelievers” were found duringa search carried out at the suspect’s home.
The alleged perpetrator was taken into custody on charges of assassination and attempted assassination in connection with a terrorist enterprise and criminal terrorist association. An acquaintance of the suspect’s was also placed in police custody.
Police, deployed for the coronavirus pandemic, probably prevented a larger body count.
The Interior Minister saluted the mobilization of a hundred police officers during an ongoing nationwide lockdown to stem the spread of COVID-19 which already claimed the lives of more than 6,000 in France.
“The security forces intervened and were able to quickly neutralize him,” Castaner stated. “As I speak to you, it seems like all the risks have been neutralized.”
There will be questions whether the motivation for the attack was attempted “suicide by police,” as the suspect apparently asked the cops to kill him.
At the time of his arrest on Saturday, the man was “found on his knees on the pavement praying in Arabic”, prosecutors said.
David Olivier Reverdy, of the National Police Alliance union, said the man had asked police to kill him.
Counter-terrorism prosecutors said they had launched an investigation into “murder linked to a terrorist enterprise”.
The suspect was not previously known to the police or intelligence services, news website France Bleu reported.
The suspect began his rampage at a tobacco shop which may or may not be significant.
Town mayor Marie-Helene Thoraval told AFP news agency that after leaving the tobacconist, the suspect went to a butcher’s shop where he grabbed another knife before attacking people queuing outside a bakery.
The butcher’s shop owner, Ludovic Breyton, said: “He took a knife, jumped over the counter, and stabbed a customer, then ran away. My wife tried to help the victim but in vain.”
In a statement, the prosecutor’s office said initial investigations suggest the attacker had “a determined murderous course aimed at seriously disturbing public order by intimidation or terror”.
France has been on a high state of alert since the 2015 Paris terrorist attacks by the Islamic State, which killed 137.
The two other suspects arrested both lived with the terrorist. It’s not known if they had advance knowledge of the attack.