A suspected extremist with a past terrorist conviction stabbed a French police commander to death outside his home and later killed his partner in an attack claimed by ISIS and denounced by the government as “an abject act of terrorism.”
The attacker, a 25-year-old who went to jail in 2013 for helping militants go to Pakistan and had been monitored by security services, repeatedly knifed Jean-Baptiste Salvaing, the 42-year-old commander, in the stomach late on Monday.
He then barricaded himself inside the house in Magnanville, a suburb some 60 km west of Paris, taking the policeman’s partner and three-year-old son hostage. His partner, an administrative police official, was found dead in the house. The boy was unharmed but in a state of shock, an Interior Ministry spokesman said.
The man, whom police and justice sources named as Larossi Abballa, was shot dead by members of an elite police unit after negotiations failed.
“An abject act of terrorism was carried out yesterday in Magnanville,” Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve said after an emergency government meeting, before heading out to Les Mureaux, where the police commander worked.
He said more than 100 people seen as potential threats have been arrested in France this year, including in recent weeks.
President Francois Hollande said the killings were “undeniably a terrorist act” and that the terrorist threat in France was very high.
“France is not the only country concerned (by the terrorist threat), as we have seen, again, in the United States, in Orlando,” he said at the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development in Paris.
The killings took place as police forces throughout France were on high alert for attacks during the Euro 2016 soccer tournament which began last week.
ISIS claimed the attack via its Amaq news agency. “Source to Amaq agency: ISIS fighter kills deputy chief of the police station in the city of Les Mureaux and his wife,” Amaq said on its website.
If it is confirmed ISIS was behind the murders, it would be the first militant strike on French soil since the government imposed a state of emergency after multiple attacks on Paris in November that killed 130 people.
ISIS’s claim that one of its “fighters” carried out the evening attack came a day after the militant group said it was responsible for the shooting that left scores of people dead and injured in a massacre at a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida.
Searches were being carried out on Tuesday morning at the attacker’s house and in other places, a judicial source said. “Many things are being analyzed,” including messages posted on social networks.
The police commander’s partner was also killed with a knife, the source said, but declined to give any more details. Larossi was born in France, said the source.
A Facebook profile bearing the name Larossi Abballa — which vanished from the internet early Tuesday — showed a photo of smiling, bearded man.
“Some will say we see evil everywhere!” Abballa said in a message posted about 18 hours before the attack.