Paris prosecutor: attacker had ‘likely’ links with Salafists

Paris prosecutor Jean-François Ricard gives a press conference at the Paris courthouse, France, Saturday Oct. 5, 2019. French prosecutors opened an investigation Friday that treats the fatal knife attack that a civilian employee carried out at Paris police headquarters as a potential act of terrorism. The longtime police employee stabbed four colleagues to death Thursday before he was shot and killed. (AP Photo/Rafael Yaghobzadeh)

PARIS (AP) — The perpetrator of a deadly knife attack at a Paris police headquarters was likely in contact with members of an ultra-conservative Islamic movement, the Paris prosecutor said Saturday.

In a press conference, Jean-Francois Ricard said the civilian employee, who killed four of his colleagues Thursday, “had likely contacts with members of the Salafist movement.”

He didn’t provide any evidence to back up his claim, nor indicate which individuals or branch of Salafism he was referring to. He also did not explain the level of involvement of any contact between the unnamed attacker and those unidentified members of the Salafist movement.

Salafism is considered a strict interpretation of Sunni Islam. While Salafism is sometimes incorrectly conflated with extremism, jihadi-Salafism was the ideology behind the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks by al-Qaeda against the United States.

The claim of potential Salafist links in the attack in Paris comes a day after French prosecutors opened an investigation into the bloodshed and indicated it could have been terror-related.

It took some 24 hours for authorities to say the attack was a potential act of terrorism, and on Friday morning the French government was still maintaining there was nothing to suggest the armed attacker had any ties to extremist groups.

Police officers control the perimeter outside the Paris police headquarters, Thursday, Oct.3, 2019 in Paris. An administrator armed with a knife attacked officers inside Paris police headquarters Thursday, killing at least four before he was fatally shot, officials said. (AP Photo/Michel Euler)

French opposition lawmakers from the Republicans and the far-right National Rally party are accusing Macron’s government of bungling the case and are calling for a parliamentary inquiry.

Ricard said the autopsies “attest to a scene of extreme violence” in an attack that lasted seven minutes, adding that two knives used had been purchased by the killer — including a knife for preparing oysters.

Ricard said that while the knifeman had no prior convictions, he had been accused of domestic violence a decade ago.

The wife of the knifeman, who was killed by police, has also been apprehended and is in custody until Monday at the latest. Ricard said she exchanged 33 text messages with her husband about Islam in the hours leading up to the attack.

Authorities said the unnamed attacker had worked for the Paris police force since 2003, didn’t have a history of psychiatric problems. Ricard said the killer converted to Islam a decade ago.