Lyon Bomb Suspect Mohamed Hichem M. Alleged Illegal Immigrant from Algeria

TOPSHOT - Emergency workers stretcher a woman to a waiting ambulance after a suspected package bomb blast along a pedestrian street in the heart of Lyon, southeast France, the local prosecutors' office said on May 24, 2019. - Several people were wounded by a suspected package bomb blast on a …
PHILIPPE DESMAZES/AFP/Getty

French media reports that the suspect in the Lyon, France, package bombing is an illegal immigrant from Algeria.

Police arrested Mohamed Hickem M., 24, on Monday on suspicion of being the perpetrator behind the suspected parcel bomb attack in Lyon, France’s third most populous city, on Friday which resulted in 13 people being injured.

Sources speaking to franceinfo have said that even after a day in custody, the suspect believed to be “the man on a bike” who left in a paper bag filled with explosives outside of a bakery in downtown Lyon is not cooperating with police. Authorities confirmed that his parents, brother, and sister were also brought in for questioning.

The insiders added that DNA evidence from the scene has been linked to the suspect, while sources speaking to Le Parisien said that a search of the family home of Oullins, in Rhône, south-west of Lyon, uncovered the chemical elements used in the composition of TATP, the explosive substance identified in analysis of the bomb.

Interior minister Christophe Castaner told CNEWS that he was in “no doubt” that the person arrested was the author of the attack and that he “certainly” intended to kill.

Reportedly unknown to police, authorities have said that on initial investigation, Mohamed Hickem M. does not fit the Islamist terrorist profile, and authorities say they are still unclear of his motive, with a source telling media that “no element related to radical Islam has been discovered at this stage”.

Le Parisien reports that the suspect was born in Oran, Algeria, in 1995, and he had described himself as a computer programmer on LinkedIn. Mohamed Hickem M. had travelled to France to live with his family two years ago, with Mr Castaner confirming: “He had short-stay visas and then applied for a student visa to enter a school.”

A local Lyon technical college confirmed that he was not a student, stating that his application had been rejected in 2017 after the French consolate in Oran rejected his student visa application. According to information obtained by franceinfo, his temporary visas had expired and he had been living illegally in the country since 2018.

The suspect had also been working at the Ampère de Lyon high school, where pupils describe him as “a very kind supervisor, close to students, who laughed easily”.

The device, according to investigators, was sophisticated in its wiring but “the charge was too small to kill” and it had been a “relatively weak explosive charge”. Crime scene investigators were able to recover a number of items from the explosion, including pieces of wiring, batteries, and a remote-controlled trigger device — as well as the ball bearings and screws the bomb had to been packed with to cause injury and death to French bystanders.

Due to the lack of force of the bomb, no one was killed; the youngest casualty was an eight-year-old girl, who suffered superficial injuries.

The last major Islamist attack in France occurred in December 2018, when jihadist Cherif Chekatt opened fire on a Christmas market in Strasbourg, killing three and injuring a dozen others before being gunned down by police. Chekatt’s father later said that his son supported Islamic State.

More than 250 people have been killed in Islamist terror attacks in France since 2015.

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