Paris (AFP) – A knifeman who killed a man and wounded four other people in a suspected terror attack in central Paris was born in Chechnya and his parents have been taken into custody, a judicial source said on Sunday.
The young Frenchman, born in 1997 in the southern Russian republic according to the source, was shot dead by police after carrying out the assault on Saturday evening near the city’s main opera house.
“He had no judicial record,” the judicial source told AFP.
“(The attacker) is French, born in Chechnya in 1997. His father and mother were placed in custody Sunday morning.”
Witnesses said they heard the attacker shout “Allahu akbar” (God is great) as Parisians fled into restaurants and bars after realising another possible terror attack was underway in a country already reeling from a string of jihadist assaults that have killed more than 245 people in the last three years.
“I was taking orders and I saw a young woman trying to get into the restaurant in panic,” Jonathan, a waiter at a Korean restaurant, told AFP.
The woman was bleeding and a young man fended off the attacker who then ran away, he said.
“The attacker entered a shopping street, I saw him with a knife in his hand,” he said. “He looked crazy.”
Milan, 19, said he saw “several people in distress” including a woman with wounds to her neck and leg.
“Firemen were giving her first aid. I heard two, three shots and a policeman told me that the man had been overpowered.”
French President Emmanuel Macron tweeted: “France has once again paid the price in blood but will not give an inch to the enemies of freedom.”
Authorities said a 29-year-old man was killed in the attack and that a terror investigation had been launched. The assailant had no identifying documents on him.
– Wounded out of danger –
The Islamic State group claimed responsibility, saying one of its “soldiers” had carried out the attack, according to the SITE monitoring group, but provided no corroborating proof to back their assertion.
Two of those wounded, a 34-year-old man and a 54-year-old woman, were rushed to hospital in a serious condition but Interior Minister Gerard Collomb later told reporters all the injured would survive.
“I have just seen the person who was most seriously injured, she is better, she is saved,” he said.
French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe said police were on the scene “within five minutes” of the attack and that some nine minutes later the assailant was dead, he added.
“The speed of the response obviously avoided a heavier toll,” he said.
A police source told AFP one officer tried to restrain the attacker with a taser but when that failed a colleague shot the man dead.
– Scenes of panic –
The attack took place on Rue Monsigny in the second arrondissement, an area that lies between the main opera house and the Louvre museum, two major tourist attractions.
Shocked tourists and residents looked on from behind a security perimeter set up by the police.
“I was on the cafe terrace, I heard three, four shots, it happened very fast,” said 47-year-old Gloria.
“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.
One witness, who gave her first name as Maxine, said panic spread as word got out that an attack was taking place.
“We saw someone coming out of a building who said he saw the assailant slaughter someone, so people took refuge in the bar,” she said.
France has suffered a series of major Islamist attacks including the massacre at the satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo, the November 2015 attacks that killed 130 in Paris, and the 2016 Bastille Day truck attack in Nice that killed more than 80.
There have also been a string of less deadly but frequent attacks by lone wolf jihadists wielding knives or guns. Most of the attacks have either been claimed by the Islamic State group or been carried out in their name.
A state of emergency put in place just after the 2015 Paris attacks was lifted in October when Macron’s centrist government passed a new law boosting the powers of security forces.
Thousands of French troops remain on the streets under an anti-terror operation known as Sentinelle, patrolling transport hubs, tourist hotspots and other sensitive sites.