An ISIS-linked news agency claimed Monday that the man who attacked and killed a French police officer and his wife in a Paris suburb was acting on behalf of the militant group, though French officials told Le Monde they were still investigating the motivation for the attack.
ISIS's Amaq news agency cited an unnamed "source" as saying the attacker carried out the attack on ISIS's behalf. The wording was similar to a statement released by Amaq in the wake of the shooting attack in Orlando over the weekend.
The attacker, a French national identified as 25-year-old Larossi Abbala, was convicted in 2013 as part of what was described at the time by French prosecutors as an al-Qaeda linked logistics cell that recruited and helped transport French fighters to Afghanistan and Pakistan for training. He was sentenced to three years in prison.
Released in 2015 after serving just under two and half years, Abbala was then added to a watch list of people believed to be terror threats and tagged for monitoring by domestic intelligence agencies and the national police, according to French officials speaking to the local media. This was confirmed to BuzzFeed News on Tuesday by a lawyer who represents the victims of terror attacks in France and Tunisia. The attorney spoke on the condition of anonymity, as they are involved in a current court case linked to the 2013 arrests.
With an estimated 11,000 names currently on the French watch list, French and European Union authorities have repeatedly stressed that it is impossible to track all of the names at all times, according to a French intelligence official interviewed last month in Paris. It takes around 20 trained police officers to monitor a single person around the clock, leaving the job well outside the capabilities of any democracy, the official continued.
French media identified the police officer as 40-year-old commander Jean-Baptiste Salvaing, while his wife was identified by the office of President François Hollande as an employee of the Interior Ministry. Her name was not made public.
Salvaing was stabbed to death outside his home in Magnanville on Monday, according to Pierre-Henry Brandet, an Interior Ministry spokesman who briefed reporters at the scene. The attacker then retreated into the home where he found Salvaing's wife and a 3-year-old child. When French elite police commandos stormed the house, they found the wife and the attacker dead.
"The toll is a heavy one," Brandet told reporters. "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."
Although officials said police killed the attacker when they stormed the residence, it was unclear how the woman was killed, or what the couple's precise relation was to the rescued child.
Hollande condemned the attack as an "odious act.”
"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.
Sheera Frenkel is a cybersecurity correspondent for BuzzFeed News based in San Francisco. She has reported from Israel, Egypt, Jordan and across the Middle East. Her secure PGP fingerprint is 4A53 A35C 06BE 5339 E9B6 D54E 73A6 0F6A E252 A50F
Got a confidential tip? Submit it here.