France’s anti-terrorism office is investigating a possible terrorist attack after an employee of the police knifed four colleagues to death and hurt two more on Friday in Paris, raising questions about national security.
Anti-terrorism prosecutor Jean-Francois Ricard described “a scene of extreme violence” during a news conference on Saturday, and said his office is still trying to understand the attacker’s motives as well as the context that led to his act.
The investigation shows that the assailant, a 45-year-old man, assaulted his colleagues with a kitchen knife and an oyster knife he’d left the office especially to purchase, Ricard said. The man had been working for the intelligence services’ computer maintenance department since 2003, he said.
An anti-terrorist probe was opened after police accessed dozens of text messages he exchanged with his wife prior to the attack. The fact that the assault had clearly been planned, the nature of the killings and the man’s religious commitment led investigators to suspect a terrorist act, the prosecutor said.
The attacker converted to Islam about a decade ago and is known to have approved of killings perpetrated for religious purposes, the prosecutor said, adding he’d also been in contact with individuals belonging to a radical salafist trend and had exchanged religious comments with his wife less than an hour before the knifing.
Ricard recently said the threat of terrorism had returned to France. A wave of attacks has shaken the country since 2015, after assaults in the offices of satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo and a kosher grocery killed 17 people in Paris and then 130 at the Bataclan concert hall in the French capital.