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Paris knifeman says his deadly attack ‘motivated by Gaza war’

A police officer, left, takes aim at the attacker
A police officer, left, takes aim at the attacker

A knifeman who killed a German tourist and wounded a Briton in a bloody attack in Paris on Saturday night said he was motivated by the war in Gaza.

The suspect, Armand Rajabpour-Miyandoab, 26, is a convicted terrorist with a history of psychiatric problems.

He reportedly shouted “Allahu Akbar” (God is Great) before being arrested near the Eiffel Tower on Saturday.

Video later emerged of police officers approaching the suspect, a French national born to Iranian parents, with stun-guns drawn.

The man shouted he was wearing explosives and was ready to die.

After his arrest, Rajabpour-Miyandoab expressed anguish about Muslims being killed in Gaza and claimed that France was an accomplice, according to Gerald Darmanin, France’s interior minister.

Western nations are on high alert for terror attacks motivated by Israel’s war on Hamas, with The Telegraph reporting that an asylum seeker has been arrested for carrying out just such an attack earlier this year.

In a video that circulated online after the Paris attack, the alleged assailant claimed responsibility, saying: “We do not forget your crimes against Muslims, especially women and children (...) and we will fight you and kill you until the day of last judgement”, while wearing a hat, sunglasses and a medical mask.

The attacker allegedly went after a German couple with a knife, killing one man at around 8pm GMT on the Quai de Grenelle, near the Eiffel Tower.

A taxi driver intervened to keep the suspect away from the wife of the 23-year-old victim, a German-Filipino citizen.

Patrick Pelloux, an emergency doctor on duty at the time of the attack, said the couple were both nurses, adding that the woman was severely shocked but unhurt.

A 66-year-old British citizen and a 60-year-old French national were also wounded in the attack.

The British victim was hit in the eye with a hammer after the attacker crossed the Pont de Bir-Hakeim over the River Seine.

French police cordon the area around Pont de Bir-Hakeim bridge
French police cordon off the area around the Bir-Hakeim bridge - Stephanie Lecocq/Reuters

The UK Foreign Office said: “We are supporting a British man who was injured in Paris and are in contact with the local authorities.”

Mr Darmanin said that police had “courageously arrested” the male suspect, who appeared to be randomly targeting passers-by.

“This person was ready to kill others,” Mr Darmanin said at a late-night press conference.

French prosecutors said they were investigating the knife and hammer attack.

Rajabpour-Miyandoab is suspected of murder and attempted murder “in connection with a terrorist plot”.

Investigators would scrutinise his medical history, a security source told AFP, saying the attacker was “very unstable and easily influenced”.

Rajabpour-Miyandoab was “being monitored in a way that did not mean he was being hospitalised, he was supposed to follow a course of treatment” for his mental health issues, said Aurelien Rousseau, the health minister.

“As often in these cases, there’s a mixture of an ideology, an easily influenced person and, unfortunately, psychiatry,” he added.

A police officer stands guard at the scene
A police officer stands guard at the scene

Emmanuel Macron, the French president, praised police after commiserating with the family of the murdered German national.

“My most sincere thanks to the emergency forces who made it possible to quickly arrest a suspect. The national anti-terrorism prosecutor’s office now will be responsible for shedding light on this matter so that justice can be done in the name of the French people.”

Mr Darmanin said the suspect had already been convicted in 2016 for plotting a terror attack  in Paris’s business district La Défense, and that he had been under police surveillance.

Three people “close to” Rajabpour-Miyandoab were being held in custody on Sunday afternoon, prosecutors said.

Olaf Scholz, the German chancellor, said that he was “devastated” by the attack. Nancy Faeser, his interior minister, had earlier warned that “the war in Gaza after Hamas’ terrorist act has worsened the threat” of Islamic terrorism.

The suspect was born in a Paris suburb to Iranian parents, who are not Muslim and had fled the Iranian regime. He was a biology student when he started to become radicalised by Isis supporters in 2015, abandoning interests like music and photography for religious songs, Le Parisien reported.

Emergency services respond to the attack
Emergency services respond to the attack

He was Facebook friends with convicted terrorists including Larossi Aballa, who stabbed two police officers to death in Magnanville in 2016, and Adel Kermiche, who stabbed a Catholic priest in Saint-Étienne du Rouvray in the same year.

At one point Rajabpour-Miyandoab expressed regret at his radicalisation and said that Islamism had “ruined his life”. However, he landed on France’s anti-terrorism radar again in 2020 for liaising with the radicalised Chechen who decapitated school teacher Samuel Paty for showing cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed to his class.

The latest violent attack has prompted calls to implement a back-up plan for the opening ceremony at the Paris 2024 Olympic games, which is expected to draw up to 400,000 spectators to the banks of the Seine.

“I imagine that it must be done to think of a possible plan B, if terrorist acts were to continue in our country,” said Frédéric Péchenard, vice-president of the Île-de-France region, in an interview with France Info on Sunday.

Before the attack, Laurent Nunez, the Paris police chief, said one of their concerns is that vehicles could be used as battering rams to plough through Olympic crowds.

France has suffered several attacks by Islamist extremists, including the November 2015 suicide and gun attacks in Paris claimed by the Islamic State group in which 130 people were killed.

There had been a relative lull in recent years, even as officials have warned that the threat remains.

But tensions have risen in France, home to large Jewish and Muslim populations, following Hamas’s attack on Israel on Oct 7 and Israel’s subsequent bombardment of the Gaza Strip.

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