The knife-wielding attacker who murdered four people at a Paris police station adhered to a “radical vision of Islam,” French anti-terrorism prosecutors say. The knifeman apparently converted to Islam 10 years ago.
Mickael Harpon, a 45-year-old police computer expert with 15 years’ experience on the force, was shot dead by fellow officers on Thursday, after killing four people and wounding two in a stabbing rampage at police headquarters in Paris.
Though terrorism was not declared the motive in the attack, the case was handed over to the country’s anti-terrorism prosecutor on Friday. The prosecutor said on Saturday that Harpon followed a “radical vision of Islam,” following media reports a day earlier that he had converted to the faith 18 months prior to the attack.
However, authorities now say the suspect converted to Islam around 10 years ago, and displayed signs of “latent radicalization.” He also exchanged 33 text messages with his wife in the runup to the attack, all of which were of a religious nature, prosecutors said on Saturday.
French Interior Minister Christophe Castaner said that Harpon – whose rampage was ended with a shot to the head from an automatic rifle – had “never shown any behavioral problems” during his time with the force. Harpon’s wife, however, told investigators that her husband “heard voices” and had become “incoherent” on Wednesday night, before waking “abruptly” on the morning of the killing spree.
As prosecutors probe Harpon’s religious leanings, the French government went out of its way to urge people not to jump to conclusions.
“It is important to emphasize you are not a terrorist [just] because you are Muslim, and converting to Islam is not an automatic sign of radicalization. The facts need to be looked at carefully,” government spokeswoman Sibeth Ndiaye told Franceinfo radio on Friday.