February 4, 2020 / 10:09 AM / 24 days ago

French barracks attacker was a trainee soldier

PARIS (Reuters) - A man who used a knife to attack officers in a French police barracks was a trainee soldier, officials said, in the second case in four months of a violent assault by someone from within France’s security services.

FILE PHOTO: French police secure an area in Villejuif near Paris, France, January 3, 2020 after police shot dead a man who tried to stab several people in a public park. REUTERS/Charles Platiau/File Photo

The assailant in Monday evening’s attack, at a barracks in Dieuze in eastern France, wounded one officer in the hand. Police shot and wounded the knifeman, who is now in hospital.

Shortly before the attack, a call was placed to the police from someone saying he was in the armed forces and was preparing an attack in Dieuze in the name of Islamic State, French media cited local prosecutors as saying.

In October last year, Mickael Harpon, an information technology assistant at police headquarters in central Paris, went on a knife rampage inside the building, killing four people before being shot dead.

A convert to Islam, Harpon had shown signs of possible radicalisation before the attack but no formal investigation was launched and he kept his job.

Monday’s attack at the barracks is likely to again raise questions about how France can guard against radicalised people infiltrating its security services. It has a large Muslim community.

“It’s been confirmed that the attacker was a young soldier, two months into initial training and currently in his probationary period,” Armed Forces Minister Florence Parly wrote on Twitter.

“He was not on duty at the time of the incident. It’s now for the judicial authorities to investigate the motivation for this attack, which I condemn,” she wrote.

Paris has suffered major attacks by Islamist militants in recent years.

Coordinated bombings and shootings in November 2015 at the Bataclan theatre and other sites around Paris killed 130 people - the deadliest attacks in France since World War Two.

In Britain on Monday, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said he would act to stop the early release of convicted terrorists from jail after an Islamist militant stabbed two people in a street attack in south London.

Writing by Christian Lowe; Editing by Giles Elgood

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