PARIS, June 7, (Agencies): A man who attacked a policeman with a hammer outside Notre Dame cathedral in Paris had pledged allegiance to the Islamic State group in a video, it emerged Wednesday, four days after an attack claimed by IS in London. The 40-year-old man was shot and wounded by police on Tuesday after lunging at the officer in a square full of tourists in front of the cathedral.
The attack, which came with France on high alert after jihadists killed seven people in London on Saturday, caused panic at one of the country’s top visitor attractions. Around 1,000 people were in the cathedral at the time. The video in which the man pledges allegiance to IS was found by police who searched the apartment he was renting in Cergy outside the French capital, the source said.
During the attack, the man had shouted “this is for Syria”, Interior Minister Gerard Collomb said. France is part of the US-led international coalition fighting IS and has carried out air strikes against militants in Syria. Documents found on the attacker identified him as a 40-year-old Algerian student doing a doctorate on the media at a university in eastern France. He had also been carrying kitchen knives, the interior minister said.
The man was on Wednesday placed in custody in hospital, where he is being treated for a gunshot wound to the chest. Government spokesman Christophe Castaner said the man had “never showed any sign of radicalisation” before the attack. The 22-year-old police officer sustained minor neck injuries in the assault. A witness told AFP he had heard someone “shout very loudly”. “Then there was a crowd surge and people panicked. I heard two shots and saw a man lying on the ground in a pool of blood,” he said.
Meanwhile, France created a new counter-terrorism task force on Wednesday, bringing together all the intelligence services, to coordinate the response to attacks, a day after an Algerian student assaulted police officers outside Notre Dame cathedral.
Macron, portrayed by rivals as weak on security during the presidential campaign, ordered the task force to be set up last month to steer France’s multiple security agencies from his Elysee Palace offices. The performance of France’s intelligence services has come under close scrutiny since the November 2015 attacks on Paris, when militant gunmen and suicide bombers struck entertainment venues across the capital, killing 130 people.