French police open terrorism probe into Paris police HQ knife attack

4 October 2019, 19:59

The terror probe was opened following the attack that left four dead
The terror probe was opened following the attack that left four dead. Picture: PA
Nick Hardinges

By Nick Hardinges

An anti-terror investigation has been launched into a knife attack that left four people dead at the police headquarters in Paris.

A French police office worker who killed three officers and an administrative worker yesterday has been linked to a radical "Islamist terror group" by prosecutors.

Michael Harpon, 45, was shot dead by police after the fatal rampage inside the Paris Police headquarters near Notre Dame Cathedral.

A source close to the investigation said the case was being taken over by anti-terror police following the interrogation of several of the attacker’s close associates, including his wife, and an inspection of his mobile phone and computer.

Checks on his devices indicated Harpon was linked to a "radical Islamist group" such as ISIS or Al Qaeda, according to the source.

French media and authorities both reported the culprit, a technology administrator in the police intelligence unit, had worked for the Paris police force since 2003 and converted to Islam 18 months ago.

Earlier today, officials said the man did not have a history of psychiatric problems and there was no evidence at that point indicating he had been radicalised by extremists.

Harpon's wife Ilham was arrested in the aftermath of the attack and remains in custody but is said to be willing to offer evidence against her husband.

She told detectives he had "heard voices" and was "incoherent and suffered a dementia attack" the night before.

“Based on the information gathered at this stage in the investigation by investigators in the criminal unit, the national anti-terrorist prosecutor has this evening taken on the case,” a prosecutor’s office spokesman said.

The attack took place on the historic Ile de la Cite island in the River Seine and caused the worst loss of French police lives in a single day since World War II.

The area was locked down after the attack, with armed security personnel in camouflage gear patrolling a bridge over the river.