French Soldier Stabbed in Paris

La Defense in Paris. Photo: Moralist for Wikimedia Commons

La Defense in Paris. Photo: Moralist for Wikimedia Commons

On Saturday, May 25, a male French citizen described as “North African” in appearance stabbed a 23-year-old soldier in the neck with a pocketknife and fled. The incident took place in “La Defense” – a crowded part of Paris known for its office buildings and large mall – where soldiers were patrolling the area as part of France’s anti-terrorism security plan. The soldier is now in recovery.

The attack comes three days after the murder of a 22-year-old English soldier in South London by two men who claimed to be acting in the name of Islam. It is believed that the Paris attack was carried out for similar reasons. However, Minister of the Interior Manuel Valls has stated that this event was not directly linked to the London murder.

Minister of Defense Jean-Yves Drian referred to the attack as an act of terrorism. “This attack was specifically aimed at a soldier,” Drian confirmed.

On May 29, the suspected attacker, Alexandre Dhaussy, 22, was arrested following the discovery of traces of his DNA on an orange juice bottle at the crime scene. Footage from surveillance tapes of the La Defence area confirmed his presence there at the time of the murder. The young man is well known by the authorities as an Islamic extremist. Authorities have monitored his behavior for over four years, and have noted “suspicious” and potentially “extremist” behavior.

Valls denies claims regarding warnings issued about Dhaussy after 2009, when the prosecutor of Paris, Francois Molins, exposed Dhaussy for having converted to Islam at the age of 18 and having close ties with the Tabligh movement – one of the least violent branches of Salafists. In July 2009, Dhaussy was questioned during public prayer in the Yvelines region on the outskirts of Paris. One of his religious associates was listed as a member of an Islamic extremist movement.

Subsequent to the warning in 2009, intelligence officials in several regions of France noted further suspicious behavior from Dhaussy. In one instance, as he searched for employment in the municipality of Rambouillet, Dhaussy stated that he “refuses to work with women.”

In May 2012 in the municipality of Guyancourt (in Yvelines), Dhaussy was seen at a bus stop “in the traditional Islamic dress (a djelaba) with a black and white scarf, long beard, and short hair covered by a bonnet,” avoiding contact with women. In addition, Dhaussy, who had no income and was registered as homeless, traveled frequently between the years 2009 and 2011.

Due to the nature of these observations, on February 20 a number of municipalities communicated several instances of suspicious behavior to the Departmental Director of Public Security and the precinct of Yvelines, the police precinct of Paris, and the headquarters of the SDIG.

This information should have then been relayed on to the Central Directorate of Interior Intelligence (DCRI), but was not due to a mismanagement of inter-departmental communication. Such a breakdown in communication contributed to the controversy surrounding the attack.

The French authorities are now investigating Dhaussy’s Internet searches, travels, and contacts in order to establish whether he was acting alone or as a part of a terrorist network. In keeping with French anti-terrorism law, Dhaussy can be held in custody for 96 hours until he is charged. This gives the French authorities until today, Saturday, June 1, to decide on Dhaussy’s charges.

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