French police shot dead a man who lunged at them early on Monday with a long-blade knife at Paris’s busy Gare du Nord train station, police sources said.
The man attacked two police officers on patrol at the station, the terminus for trains from London, with a 30-centimetre (12-inch) knife with ACAB (All Cops Are Bastards) written on the blade, said a police source, who asked not be named.
“The police used their firearms, thus eliminating all danger, both for themselves and for travellers,” Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin wrote in a tweet.
The attack occurred around 7:00 am (0600 GMT), he said.
Three police officers were killed and a fourth wounded in central France on Wednesday when a man opened fire as they responded to a domestic violence call, the deadliest attack in years on French security forces outside of terrorism incidents.
The suspect, a 48-year-old man known to authorities for child custody disputes, was “discovered dead” several hours after fleeing the home in an isolated hamlet near Saint-Just, a village of some 160 people south of Clermont-Ferrand, Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin said in a tweet.
“This is one of the most tragic events in the history” of France’s Gendarmes force, which often ensures law enforcement in rural areas, Darmanin said after arriving at the scene.
He gave no further details on how the man died, though a ministry source told AFP the suspect “was found dead in his vehicle, apparently a suicide.”
Identified by officials as Frederik L., he opened fire at two officers who arrived at the house shortly after midnight after being alerted to a reported domestic assault.
One was killed immediately and the other shot in the thigh before the man set fire to the house, where a woman had climbed onto the roof.
Police reinforcements and firefighters were rushed to the scene, and all roads leading to the house were blocked off, according to the prosecutor’s office in Clermont-Ferrand.
Two further police who were trying to determine if rescue officers could reach their shot colleagues were then fired on and killed by the suspect, who had barricaded himself in the house.
“He was an amateur shooter” and was “heavily armed, with a rifle and two pistols,” a source close to the inquiry said.
He later escaped and some 300 officers spent hours searching for the suspect.
– ‘History of violence’ –
Darmanin’s deputy Marlene Schiappa told BFM television that the woman herself had called police to say she was being threatened, adding that the husband appeared to have “a history of violence.”
The woman and her child were safely rescued.
The officers killed, gendarmes from France’s military police, were identified as Arno Mavel, 21; Remi Dupuis, 37; and Cyrille Morel, 45.
They leave behind widows and a total of four children, Darmanin said.
“Our security forces put their lives at risk to protect us. These are our heroes,” President Emmanuel Macron said in a tweet.
The prosecutor for Clermont-Ferrand has announced a press conference on the investigation at 5:00 pm (1600 GMT).
– Under threat –
Aside from terror attacks, shootings of police officers in France are rare.
Last May, a man fired at police from his house in the Gironde region of southwest France, wounding one officer. As he was about to fire again, he was shot dead by police.
The most recent killings of officers in the line of duty, excluding terrorism, occurred in June 2012, when two female officers died in Collobrieres, southern France, while intervening in a dispute between neighbours.
But French security forces say they have increasingly been targeted in recent years as they struggle to carry out Macron’s promise to reduce crime and insecurity.
Darmanin said Wednesday that 11 police have been killed in the line of duty this year.
Among the most high-profile incidents in recent months, two undercover officers were shot during a surveillance operation in a Paris suburb in October, while later that month a station outside Paris was attacked by dozens of people armed with powerful fireworks and steel bars.
The government has promised to increase funding and pass a new “comprehensive security” law to protect officers in the line of duty, a move denounced by critics as an attempt to shield officers from public scrutiny after several reported incidents of police brutality.
Four French police on Sunday risked being charged over the beating and racial abuse of a black music producer that shocked France and intensified controversy over new security legislation.
Tens of thousands protested across France Saturday against the security bill — which would restrict the right of the press to publish the faces of on-duty police — with the rally in Paris ending in bitter clashes.
The beating of music producer Michel Zecler — exposed in video footage published last week — has become a rallying cause for anger against the police in France, accused by critics accuse of institutionalised racism including singling out Blacks and Arabs.
The protests in Paris saw a brasserie set alight, cars set on fire, and stones thrown at security forces, who responded with tear gas and anti-riot tactics.
Among those hurt was an award-winning Syrian photojournalist, Ameer Alhabi, seen with a bruised face and much of his head covered in bandages in AFP photos.
Christophe Deloire, Secretary-General of Reporters Without Borders, tweeted that the 24-year-old had been wounded at Place de la Bastille by “a police baton” and condemned the violence.
Alhalbi is a freelance photographer who has worked for Polka Magazine and AFP, who both condemned the incident in statements Sunday.
“We are shocked by the injuries suffered by our colleague Ameer al-Halbi and condemn the unprovoked violence,” said Phil Chetwynd, AFP’s global news director, demanding that the police investigate the incident
Police said 62 officers were injured at the demonstrations and 81 people arrested, with Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin saying the violence in the protests was “unacceptable”.
Authorities did not have a tally for the number of marchers injured, saying only that two people outside the capital had complained of police violence.
– ‘Shame us’ –
Four police have been detained over the beating of Zecler, with three of them specifically probed for using racial violence as well as for making false statements.
Following questioning by the police’s National Police Inspectorate General (IGPN) they have now been handed over to the judicial authorities to decide on the next steps, which could see them being charged.
They could face a fast-track trial or a more standard procedure which would see a case being opened and the men appear before an investigating magistrate.
Paris prosecutor Remy Heitz is due to give an update on the measures to be taken against them from 5:00 pm (1600 GMT).
Commentators say that the images of the beating — first published by the Loopsider news site — may never have been made public if the contentious Article 24 of the security legislation was made law.
The bill would criminalise publishing images of on-duty police with the intent of harming their “physical or psychological integrity”.
It was passed by the National Assembly although it is awaiting Senate approval.
The controversy over the law and police violence is developing into another crisis for the government as President Emmanuel Macron confronts the pandemic, its economic fallout, and a host of problems on the international stage.
Macron said Friday that the images of Zecler’s beating “shame us” and asked the French government to come up with proposals to “fight against discrimination”.
For critics, the legislation is further evidence of a slide to the right by Macron, who came to power in 2017 as a centrist promising liberal reform of France.
A series of high-profile cases against police officers over the mistreatment of black or Arab citizens has raised accusations of institutionalised racism. The force has insisted violations are the fault of isolated individuals.
French police fired tear gas and water cannon to disperse stone-throwing “yellow vest” protesters in Paris Saturday, on the first anniversary of the movement challenging President Emmanuel Macron’s policies.
Clashes broke out in other French cities as activists rallied to prove their movement is still a force a year after the first giant protest on November 17, 2018, which drew 282,000 people.
Numbers attending the protests and levels of violence have sharply diminished from the height of the movement, which began on the back of frustration Macron was failing to address the needs of ordinary French people.
But Saturday’s protests — which demonstrators called “Act 53” of their weekly gatherings — marked the first serious clashes for months in central Paris between security forces and demonstrators.
The interior ministry put the number of demonstrators at 28,600 nationwide but the organisers said nearly 40,000 people had rallied.
Tensions focused on the Place d’Italie square in southeast Paris. Police in full riot gear flooded the area in tear gas and used water cannons after demonstrators threw stones, set rubbish bins alight, overturned cars and set them ablaze, AFP correspondents said.
A major shopping centre in the area closed its doors after dozens of protesters threw stones at the windows of a neighbouring hotel. Several demonstrators and a freelance journalist were injured.
Police arrested 147 people across Paris by 8:00 pm (1900 GMT), of whom 129 were in custody.
Earlier in the afternoon, Paris police chief Didier Lallement had banned the Place d’Italie demonstration, condemning the “damage and the systematic attacks against the security forces and the fire brigade”.
“It’s pathetic that the demonstration was banned,” said Catherine Van Puymbroeck, 49. “The state has provoked this anger.”
Police also fired tear gas in the Les Halles area, near the famed Pompidou Centre museum, to break up demonstrations.
The yellow vests want the actions on Saturday — their usual day of protest — and also Sunday, the anniversary day, to remind Macron they have not vanished from the scene.
“We’re here even if Macron doesn’t like it,” demonstrators chanted as they arrived on the outskirts of Paris Saturday, with others singing “Happy Birthday”.
Police were deployed in numbers, especially along the Champs-Elysees, which was again closed off to demonstrators following the ransacking of shops that followed a protest last March.
France has a long tradition of violent protest, but the ferocity of last winter’s demonstrations and allegations of police brutality shocked the country.
A poll by the Elabe institute published Wednesday said 55 percent of French people support or have sympathy for the yellow vests, although 63 percent said they do not want the protests to begin in earnest again.
The most prominent figures in the movement, which has explicitly shunned any formal leadership structure, acknowledge the declining numbers but say the authorities’ response has not been sufficient.
“We shouldn’t still need to be on the street one year on,” said Priscillia Ludosky, an entrepreneur whose online petition against high fuel prices helped kick off the movement, told the Regards news site.
‘End of public services’
The yellow vests — named for the glow-in-the-dark waistcoats all French drivers must carry in their cars — posed the biggest challenge to Macron since he came to power in 2017 on the back of promises of sweeping change.
Initially taken aback by the size and intensity of the movement, Macron offered billions of euros in state aid and tax breaks — and scrapped a planned fuel tax hike — while embarking on a “Great National Debate” at town halls nationwide.
He has also tried to soften his sometimes abrasive style. Just weeks before the protests erupted, Macron told a 25-year-old man looking for a job in Paris that “if I crossed the street I’d find you one”.
There were fewer reports of violence and large-scale protests outside Paris, but there were clashes at Bordeaux and Toulouse in the southwest, Nantes in the west and Lyon in the east.
“If the movement disappears, I worry that society will dehumanise and that would be the end of public services and the reign of money, the king,” said Vanessa, a protester 47, in Nantes.
The next major street challenge to Macron, however, may not come from this weekend’s protests but a strike called by unions on December 5 to rally against his planned pension reforms.
A 31-year-old French police officer shot three people dead before turning the gun on himself, in a killing spree sparked by a row with his girlfriend, authorities said Sunday.
The news comes with France already grappling with a surge in police suicides this year
The Paris officer, Arnaud Martin, finished his shift on Saturday evening and went to meet his girlfriend in Sarcelles, a suburb north of the capital city, to discuss ending their relationship.
But after an argument broke out, Martin shot the young woman in the face and killed two men, aged 30 and 44, who according to first reports, attempted to intervene, said Eric Corbaux, prosecutor for the Pontoise department.
He then went to his girlfriend’s home just a few yards away, where he killed the girl’s father and seriously injured her mother in the throat.
He also shot the woman’s sister in the leg and killed the family dog.
The attacker was later found “dead from a gunshot wound to the head, his gun in his hand, in the back of the garden,” Corbaux said.
His former girlfriend was in serious condition in hospital on Sunday.
“According to his superiors, he was a good civil servant, a very serious former gendarme,” Corbaux said.
Saturday’s tragedy comes as French officials confront a sharp increase in police suicides, with more than 45 officers and 16 gendarmes killing themselves so far this year.
Interior Minister Gerard Collomb told France Inter radio that the attacker was “someone who, at one point, totally derailed.He was armed, he could fire.”
But Collomb said he would not backtrack on allowing officers carry their weapons when off-duty, a practice France introduced after the November 2015 terror attacks in Paris.
“It’s something that requires a lot of attention by police supervisors,” Collomb said, though he acknowledged that most police suicides are prompted by events in their private lives.
French police have confirmed the death of a man while about 1,500 migrants were trying to enter the channel tunnel in Calais on Tuesday.
Speaking after a meeting of the government’s Emergency Cobra Committee, Home Secretary, Theresa May, said the UK was pressing for the rapid installation of 1.2 miles of new security fencing which it had pledged to pay for at Coquelles, near the tunnel entrance.
The man was the ninth person killed at the channel tunnel terminal this summer.
French police said he was probably crushed by a lorry which was exiting one of the shuttles that transport vehicles through the tunnel.
The incident came after the British Prime Minister, David Cameron, pledged that the UK government would do everything possible to combat the crisis.
Mr Cameron had, however, confirmed a £7m ($11m) funding for a new fencing at the terminal.
The man who died was described as Sudanese, aged between 25 and 30.
French police extended a manhunt on Thursday for two brothers suspected of killing 12 people at a satirical magazine in Paris in a presumed Islamist militant strike that national leaders and allied states described as an assault on democracy.
France began a day of mourning for the journalists and police officers shot dead on Wednesday morning by black-hooded gunmen using Kalashnikov assault rifles. French tricolor flags flew at half mast throughout the country.
Police released photos of the two French nationals still at large, calling them “armed and dangerous”: brothers Cherif and Said Kouachi, aged 32 and 34, both of whom were already under watch by security services.
The journal Charlie Hebdo is well known for lampooning Islam and other religions, as well as political figures.
Islamist militants have repeatedly threatened France with attacks over its military strikes on Islamist strongholds in the Middle East and Africa, and the government reinforced its anti-terrorism laws last year.
Prime Minister Manuel Valls said France faced a terrorist threat “without precedent” and confirmed the two brothers were known to security services. But he added it was too early to say whether authorities had underestimated the threat they posed.
“Because they were known, they had been followed,” he told RTL radio, adding: “We must think of the victims. Today it’s a day of mourning.”
A total of seven people had been arrested since the attack, he said. Police sources said they were mostly acquaintances of the two main suspects. One source said one of the brothers had been identified by his identity card, left in the getaway car.