UPDATED WITH DETAILS ON THE ATTACKER AND COMMENTS FROM FRENCH PRESIDENT
PARIS (AA) – A French police commander and his wife were killed Monday in an apparent attack claimed by Daesh.
The officer, who was named in French media as Jean-Baptiste Salvaing, 42, worked as an assistant chief in the town of Les Mureaux and was reportedly wearing civilian clothes at the time of the attack, which was carried out by a neighbor.
Interior Ministry spokesman Pierre-Henry Brandet said the suspect stubbed Salvaing several times before entering his home and taking his family hostage in the town of Magnanville in the Yvelines department southwest of Paris.
Raid special forces arrived at the scene around 09.30 pm local time (0700 GMT) in an attempt to negotiate with the suspect, but talks failed, according to Brandet, forcing them to storm the house around midnight.
Special forces shot the attacker but found the policeman’s wife dead and were able to rescue the couple’s three-year-old son. “The toll is a heavy one,” Brandet told reporters at the scene.
“This commander, this police officer was killed by the individual … [and] we discovered the body of a woman. The assailant, the criminal, was killed. Thankfully a little boy was saved. He was in the house. He’s safe and sound. He was saved by police officers.”
French media quoted the Daesh-linked Amaq News Agency as saying on its Telegram channels, “Islamic State fighter kills deputy chief of the police station in the city of Les Mureaux and his wife with blade weapons near Paris.”
French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve said in a statement that an anti-terror probe had been launched into the attack. Cazeneuve expressed his “infinite sadness” at the death of the commander and his partner, who had worked for his ministry.
“The attacker was neutralized by Raid forces, who showed great composure and great professionalism and who saved the couple’s little boy,” according to Cazeneuve.
“The inquiry opened by the justice authorities will establish the precise circumstances of this tragedy.”
Versailles prosecutor Vincent Lesclous, who said he knew the slain commander, was cautious about drawing conclusions about the attack.
“The investigation is beginning. We have no serious [indication] on the motivation behind this act.
- The attacker
French daily Le Monde and RMC radio identified the attacker as Larossi Abballa, 25, a resident of the nearby town of Mantes-la-Jolie, where the woman worked in the local police station and the police commander had previously worked before being posted to nearby Mureaux.
Abballa is a former prison inmate who was known to police for radicalism and already had a terrorism conviction. He had been sentenced to three years in prison, six months suspended, in 2013 for “criminal association in view to preparing terrorist attacks” over his role in a recruitment network of fighters linked to Pakistan and Afghanistan.
President Francois Hollande condemned the “odious act” and held a ministerial meeting at the Presidential Palace on Tuesday morning.
“Light will be shed on the circumstances of this abominable drama whose investigation, under the authority of justice, will determine the exact nature,” he said in a statement.
Speaking later on the sidelines of a meeting of the OECD in Paris, Hollande evoked an "unquestionably terrorist act."
This couple was "assassinated with cowardice by a terrorist," Hollande said. “France faces a terrorist threat of great importance" against which "we have mobilized considerable resources," he added.
Paris’s chief prosecutor Francois Molins is expected to give more details on the attack and the suspect at a press conference during the day.
France has been under a state of emergency since last November, when 130 victims were killed in terror attacks in Paris.