Paris stabbing suspect says he aimed to target Charlie Hebdo

The 18-year-old suspect says he carried out the attack in anger over republished caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad.

A French riot police officer stands guard after a knife attack near the former offices of satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo
The attack came three weeks into a trial in Paris of suspected accomplices in the January 2015 attacks on Charlie Hebdo magazine [Lewis Joly/AP]

The chief suspect in a double stabbing in Paris told investigators he carried out the attack outside the former offices of Charlie Hebdo magazine in anger over caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad it recently republished.

The 18-year-old suspect said he intended to target the satirical weekly, which in January 2015 was targeted by gunmen, an official close to the investigation told AFP news agency on Saturday.

The attack on Friday came three weeks into a trial in Paris of suspected accomplices in the January 2015 attacks on Charlie Hebdo, a policewoman, and a Jewish supermarket that killed 17 people.

While the man is believed to have carried out the stabbings alone, eight other people are now also under arrest following two more detentions on Saturday.

The two new individuals arrested were the suspect’s younger brother and another acquaintance, a judicial source said.

The people wounded were employees of prize-winning TV production agency Premieres Lignes, whose offices are in the same block in central Paris that used to house Charlie Hebdo.

However, it is believed the two victims, who stepped out onto the street for a cigarette break, were not specifically attacked. They were badly wounded but their lives are not in danger.

The suspect mistakenly believed Charlie Hebdo’s offices were still in that building and wanted to attack journalists from the magazine, a source said, confirming information first published in the Le Parisien newspaper.

Charlie Hebdo moved offices after the 2015 attack and its current address is kept secret for security reasons.

French Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin said on Friday the attack was “clearly an act of Islamist terrorism”. Anti-terrorism prosecutors have opened an investigation.

Five of the individuals arrested were in an apartment in Pantin in the northern Paris suburb of Seine-Saint-Denis, the last presumed address of the suspected attacker.

The suspect arrived in France three years ago as an unaccompanied minor, apparently from Pakistan, but his identity was still being verified, the minister said.

Late on Friday, police released another man who was close to the scene of the attack but who was confirmed to have been a witness who “chased the assailant”, a judicial source said.

‘Could have done better’

Twelve people, including some of France’s most celebrated cartoonists, were killed in the attack on Charlie Hebdo’s offices by gunmen on January 7, 2015.

Charlie Hebdo angered many Muslims around the world by publishing cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad in 2006, and in a defiant gesture reprinted some of the caricatures before the trial.

In court are 14 alleged accomplices of brothers Said and Cherif Kouachi, the perpetrators of the 2015 attack on Charlie Hebdo that was claimed by a branch of al-Qaeda.

A female police officer was killed a day later, followed by the killing of four men in a hostage-taking at a Jewish supermarket by gunman Amedy Coulibaly the next day.

The magazine received new threats from al-Qaeda this month after it republished the controversial cartoons.

Darmanin admitted the risk of an attack around the former offices had been “underestimated” and said he had asked for an explanation from the police.

“It is obvious that we could have done better,” he said.

Source: News Agencies