A man claiming allegiance to the Islamic State group killed a French policeman and his partner, investigators said Tuesday, in what authorities blasted as an “appalling terrorist act.”
President Francois Hollande held a top-level security meeting after the overnight attack, which took place as France was on high alert for the Euro 2016 football championships.
Sources close to the investigation identified the suspect, who was killed in a dramatic police operation, as Larossi Abballa, 25.
They told AFP he had been previously sentenced for a role in a jihadist group with links to Pakistan.
He stabbed the policeman repeatedly outside his home in Magnanville, a northwestern suburb of Paris, before holing up inside with the policeman’s partner and the couple’s three-year-old son.
Loud detonations were heard at the scene as elite RAID police moved in following failed negotiations with the attacker.
Officers found the woman’s body after they stormed the house, and her attacker was killed during the assault, interior ministry spokesman Pierre-Henry Brandet said.
The couple’s toddler son was “in shock but unharmed,” a prosecutor added, saying the boy was receiving medical attention.
The slain policeman was 42 years old and worked in nearby Les Mureaux. His partner was a local police official. Their identities have been withheld.
Witnesses told investigators the man may have shouted “Allahu akbar” (God is greatest) as he stabbed the policeman.
Sources close to the inquiry, speaking on condition of anonymity, said he claimed allegiance to IS while talking to officers.
The SITE Intelligence Group, a US-based monitor, cited the IS-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.”
Abballa, the sources said, had been sentenced in 2013 to a three-year term, six months of which were suspended, for “criminal association with the aim of preparing terrorist acts,” in a trial with seven other defendants.
Hollande met at the Elysee presidential palace early Tuesday with Prime Minister Manuel Valls, Interior Minister Cazeneuve and Justice Minister Jean-Jacques Urvoas.
In a statement earlier, Hollande said an “odious act” had been committed and vowed to shed all light on the murders.
The operation in Magnanville saw police move in quickly to evacuate residents from the neighbourhood and block off roads, an AFP journalist saw.
A helicopter was on the ground a few hundred metres (yards) away from the scene of the attack, along with fire trucks and ambulances.
RAID officers “arrived rapidly on the scene. Negotiations were launched and an assault plan was put in place,” Brandet said.
But the negotiations were “unsuccessful” and authorities decided to launch an assault around midnight, he added.
The killing came after a gunman claiming to be acting in the name of IS shot dead 49 people at a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida on Sunday in the worst mass shooting in US history.
The bloodshed also comes as France hosts the Euro 2016 football tournament under tight security.
The country is still reeling from jihadist attacks in Paris last November that left 130 people dead.
Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve blasted the killings as “an appalling terrorist act.”
Cazeneuve said that since the start of 2016, more than a hundred people “representing a threat to public security” had been arrested