The French government held an emergency meeting on Saturday after a Tunisian man stabbed to death a police officer near Paris in an alleged jihadist attack, in which four people have been detained so far.
Friday’s murder at a police station in Rambouillet, a city about 60 kilometers southwest of Paris, relived the trauma of a series of deadly attacks in recent years in France.
The victim was a 49-year-old woman named Stephanie M., a police administrative assistant and mother of two teenage girls, who was stabbed twice in the throat at the entrance to the police station.
His alleged assailant, Jamel Gorchene, 36, was killed by an officer at the scene. Neither the police nor the intelligence services had a file on the man of Tunisian origin.
French President Emmanuel Macron, who was visiting Chad at the time of the attack, tweeted that France would never give in to “Islamist terrorism.”
This Saturday, the French president visited the victim’s husband in his bakery after meeting with agents in Rambouillet, the presidency said. The family was “very affected and very dignified,” he added.
The Ministers of Interior, Justice and Defense met this Saturday urgently for two hours, summoned by Prime Minister Jean Castex.
The national anti-terrorist prosecutor’s office is investigating the attack. A source close to the investigation assured AFP that the attacker shouted “Allah Akbar” (Allah is the greatest).
The chief anti-terrorist prosecutor, Jean-François Ricard, confirmed that “the words of the aggressor” point to a terrorist motivation and said that the attack could have been premeditated.
The attacker’s father and two people who allegedly welcomed him upon arrival in France were detained and their interrogations continued on Saturday, while the police inquired into his background, contacts and motivations.
A fourth person was also arrested and the homes of the four arrested were searched.
The attacker’s mobile phone contained Muslim religious chants used by jihadist propaganda, according to a source close to the investigation.
Gorchene arrived in France illegally in 2009, but had obtained a one-year residence permit since last December, according to the national counter-terrorism prosecutor’s office.
He was originally from Msaken, a commercial city near Susa, on the east coast of Tunisia, where his family still resides in a modest house.
A cousin of the attacker, Noureddine, described him to AFP as “quiet and reserved”. Another cousin, Sameh, said she was being treated by a psychiatrist in France because she suffered from depression.
On October 24, 2020, eight days after the murder of high school teacher Samuel Paty, beheaded by an 18-year-old man of Chechen origin for showing his students cartoons of Muhammad, Gorchene changed his profile picture and joined a campaign that asked respect for the prophet.
Since 2015, a wave of jihadist attacks has caused more than 260 deaths in France. Several of these attacks have been committed with a knife and against the security forces.
A year before the presidential election, the latest attacks on the police could put even more focus on extremism in France and general concern for security.
The far-right leader Marine Le Pen immediately questioned why the attacker was able to settle in France and charged against recent criticism of police brutality.
“We have to go back to reason: Support our police, expel illegal migrants and eradicate Islamism,” tweeted Le Pen, who polls place her in the second round of the presidential election against Macron.
Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin, who also visited officers in Rambouillet, said that security would be strengthened at all police stations.
A tribute to the murdered police officer will take place in front of Rambouillet City Hall on Monday at 5:30 p.m. (3:30 p.m. GMT), the mayor’s office announced on Twitter.
Melissa Galbraith is the World News reporter for Globe Live Media. She covers all the major events happening around the World. From Europe to Americas, from Asia to Antarctica, Melissa covers it all. Never miss another Major World Event by bookmarking her author page right here.