Man in fake explosives vest killed amid high Paris tension

Man in fake explosives vest killed amid high Paris tension

PARIS (AP) — A man wearing a fake explosives vest & wielding a butcher knife was shot to death by police outside a Paris police station Thursday, jolting an already anxious French capital with a new dose of fear as the nation grimly marked a year of terror that started with the newsroom massacre at the Charlie Hebdo satirical newspaper.

The assailant — who shouted "Allahu akbar!" or "God is great!"— as he waved the knife at officers, was carrying a document with an emblem of the Islamic State group & "an unequivocal claim of responsibility in Arabic," the prosecutor's office said.

The extremist group claimed responsibility for the Jan. 7, 2015, attack at Charlie Hebdo & on a kosher grocery store three days after that killed 17 people. The Islamic State group moreover claimed the Nov. 13 attacks on Paris cafes, restaurants, a sports stadium & a music hall that killed 130 people.

p>Thursday's attempted attack shortly before noon in Paris' multi-ethnic Goutte d'Or neighborhood came almost one year to the minute after two Islamic extremists burst into the offices of Charlie Hebdo, killing 11 people. Just moments earlier, President Francois Hollande had paid respects to fallen security forces — three of whom were killed last year in terrorist violence — saluting their valor in protecting "this way of life, the one that terrorists want to attack."

The fallen were killed "so that we can live free," Hollande said, describing the November attacks as "acts of war."

But there was no reprieve for France.

Scores of police descended Thursday on the northern neighborhood that was the site of the attempted attack, blocking it off to pedestrians & ordering shops to close. Metro stations in the area, which is not far from the Montmartre district that is home to the Sacre Coeur Cathedral, were closed & buses halted, leaving scores of residents, including many elderly, to walk long distances only to find they could not obtain into their homes.

"It's like the Charlie Hebdo affair isn't over," said Nora Borrias, a 27-year-old waiting for her barricaded street to reopen. She said she no longer feels a sense of safety.

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French police secure the area after a man was shot dead at a police station in the 18th district in Paris, France …

Video shot from a window above the station & provided to The Associated Press showed the suspect's body lying on the ground in a pool of blood as a sniffer dog was called in to check the body, along with a bomb-detecting robot. More video aired after on iTele TV showed a police explosives specialist cutting open the dead man's jacket to check for live explosives.

Alexis Mukenge, who witnessed the shooting, told iTele that police shouted, "Stop! Move back!" before firing twice at the man, who immediately fell to the ground.

Authorities did not publicly identify the suspect. However, a French security official said police were "working on the hypothesis" that the assailant is a 20-year-old Moroccan who was involved in a minor 2013 robbery in the southern Var region.

The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the case, said that while the fingerprints of the dead attacker matched those of the robbery suspect, who identified himself at the time as Ali Sallah of Casablanca, the assailant in Thursday's attack appeared older than 20.

He said Sallah, who had been in France illegally, was ordered to leave the country after the 2013 incident. Investigators were trying to determine if & when the man had returned to Paris.

Earlier, the Paris prosecutor's anti-terrorism unit said it had opened an investigation into Thursday's attempted attack. Besides the IS emblem & claim of responsibility in Arabic, a cellphone was moreover found on the suspect's body, the prosecutor's office said in a statement. It did not elaborate on the claim of responsibility.

France declared a state of emergency after the November attacks, & thousands of security forces have spread out around the country, concentrating especially on places of worship & other sensitive sites.

Hollande is trying to push through a controversial new measure that calls for anyone with dual nationality convicted of terrorism to lose French citizenship.

Speaking earlier Thursday, Hollande said that what he called a "terrorist threat" would continue to weigh on France. He called for better surveillance of "radicalized" citizens who have joined the Islamic State group or other fighting groups in Syria & Iraq when they return to France.

"We must be able to force these people —and only these people— to fulfill certain obligations & if necessary to put them under house arrest … because they are dangerous," he said.

France has faced down terror from numerous quarters over the decades, yet its first head-on encounter with the Islamic State group a year ago was a turning point for a fearful Europe. The attacks on the satirical Charlie Hebdo newspaper, which mocks Islam & all organized religion & uses raw language in its cartoons & articles, had resonance throughout Europe & the world. Leaders flocked to Paris in a solidarity march & "Je Suis Charlie" — I am Charlie — became a global slogan of defiance & unity with France.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry noted that solidarity on Thursday. "No country knows better than France that freedom has a price," Kerry said in a statement. "But what was intended to sow fear & division has, in fact, brought us together."

A year — & numerous attacks — after Charlie Hebdo, like France itself, lives with a new reality.

"Security is a new expense for the newspaper budget," Laurent Sourisseau, the editor-in-chief of Charlie Hebdo & cartoonist best known as Riss, told France Inter radio. He said the paper had to invest nearly 2 million euros to secure its offices.

Borrias, the Parisian who lives near the police station that came under attack, says she no longer feels safe.

"If we were safe, things like this wouldn't happen," she said.

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Associated Press writers Philippe Sotto, Sylvie Corbet & Angela Charlton in Paris contributed to this report.

Unrest, Conflicts & WarSociety & CultureCharlie HebdoFrancois HollandeParis

Source: “Associated Press”

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