France: Chopper attacker charged with terrorist “assassination attempts”

The Pakistani national accused of seriously injuring two people on Friday in Paris on suspicion of attacking satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo was indicted (indicted) on Tuesday and jailed for terrorist “assassination attempts”.

• Read also: Attack with a chopper in Paris: the suspect “accepts his act” against Charlie Hebdo

After four days in police custody, Zaheer Hassan Mahmoud was presented to an investigating judge who indicted him for “attempted assassinations in connection with a terrorist enterprise” and “criminal association” criminal terrorist, said the National Anti-Terrorism Prosecutor’s Office (Pnat). He was remanded in custody.

During a press conference in the afternoon, the national anti-terrorism prosecutor Jean-François Ricard had confirmed that the assailant, by attacking two employees of the Premiers Lines agency, was targeting “Charlie Hebdo”, whose premises were located at this location, in eastern Paris, during the murderous attack of January 2015.

The author of this Islamist attack told investigators to have watched “in recent days videos from Pakistan” concerning the publication and republication in early September by Charlie Hebdo of cartoons of Muhammad who had made him the target of jihadists, added the magistrate.

According to the prosecutor, some “friends” heard by investigators confirmed that the man “has been watching extensively lately videos of Khadim Hussain Rizvi, the founder and leader of the Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan party, says TLP,” a movement Pakistani extremist.

The TLP took part in demonstrations in early September bringing together thousands of people in several cities of Pakistan against Charlie Hebdo and France after the republication of the cartoons.

His act was premeditated, according to the Pnat: “angry”, the person had carried out spotting the days before the attack, had bought the same morning the chopper, a hammer and bottles of white spirit, because his “project initial was to enter the newspaper’s premises, if necessary using a hammer, and set them on fire, ”according to Jean-François Ricard.

Still hospitalized

“Arriving in front of the street, and seeing the victims, he thought that the latter were working for (Charlie Hebdo) and decided to attack them (…) suddenly”, he said.

The Front Line worker is “still hospitalized in very serious condition” with several skull fractures, while his colleague has “had several wounds and fractures on his face.”

Arrested at Place de la Bastille after the facts, Zaheer Hassan Mahmoud spent ninety-six hours in police custody in the hands of investigators from the criminal brigade and the General Directorate of Internal Security (DGSI).

The suspected assailant, who initially claimed to be Hassan Ali and was 18, was confronted with a Pakistani passport photo found in his phone and eventually claimed to be Zaheer Hassan Mahmoud and to be 25 years old.

He says he comes from Kothli Kazi, a village in the Mandi agricultural district of the Punjab in Pakistan.

Contacted by phone by AFP, Arshad Mahmoud, who identifies himself as his father, said he was “very happy” and “very proud” of the actions of his son, who “protected the honor of the Prophet”.

Under these two identities, the man was unknown to the specialized services. But he said he arrived in France in August 2018 and thanks to his first identity, that of a minor, he received social assistance for children in the Paris region. His career has opened a political debate in France on the care of unaccompanied minors.

His second identity has not yet been definitively authenticated with the Pakistani authorities.

As it stands, investigators seem to think he acted alone: ​​the ten people in custody since Friday have all been released.

Among them were a brother and several former roommates of the alleged assailant, but also “Youssef”, a 33-year-old Algerian who “showed great courage in trying to catch the accused to arrest him. “, According to the anti-terrorism prosecutor.

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