French authorities opened an investigation into terrorism and arrested three people after a police officer was stabbed to death inside a police station outside Paris on Friday. Officers shot and killed the assailant at the scene, authorities said.
The attack stunned the quiet residential neighborhood near the famous historic Rambouillet castle and prompted the renewed French government to promise to fight extremism and protect the police.
Counter-terrorism prosecutor Jean-François Ricard told reporters that his office took over the investigation because the attacker had guarded the station early, due to statements made during the attack, and because he had targeted a police officer. .
Ricard did not provide details on the identity or motive of the attacker.
French media reports identified the attacker as a 37-year-old French resident with no criminal record or a history of radicalization. A French judicial official, who was not authorized to speak publicly about the ongoing investigation, said the attacker was born in Tunisia.
Police ransacked the attacker’s home, also in Rambouillet, and arrested three people in his entourage, according to the official.
French Prime Minister Jean Castex rushed to the scene with other officials and promised the government “determination to fight terrorism in all its forms”. Islamic extremists and others have carried out numerous attacks in France in recent years, including several attacks on the police.
The official killed on Friday was a 49-year-old administrative employee who worked for the National Police Service, a National Police spokesman told The Associated Press. The police only released her name, Stephanie.
She had left the station briefly to extend the time in her parking lot and was attacked in the entrance passage upon her return, said Valerie Pécresse, president of the Paris region.
“The police are the symbol of the republic. They are France,” Pecresse told reporters there. “The face of France” has been targeted, he said.
The attack took place southwest of Paris, right inside the police station in the town of Rambouillet, about 750 meters from a former royal castle which is sometimes used for international peace negotiations.
“There is some sort of signature on this attack, a knife attack in the throat against a female police officer in a police building,” François Bersani, a police union official told The Associated Press. on site. .
The prime minister noted that the surrounding Yvelines region has seen two particularly brutal Islamic extremist attacks on public officials in recent years: the beheading of a teacher by a Chechen extremist last year and the fatal stabbing of a woman in 2016. couple of policemen in their home by a Frenchman who claimed allegiance to ISIS.
Friday’s attack came as President Emmanuel Macron’s government is tightening its security policies amid voter concerns about crime and police complaints that they face growing danger. The change comes as France prepares for regional elections in June where security is a big issue, and for next year’s presidential election where Macron’s main challenger could be far-right leader Marine Le Pen, if look for a second term.