French Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin reportedly told TF1 television on Sunday that the country was ‘durably under threat from Islamist terrorism’ after a prosecutor identified the French 26-year-old born to Iranian parents accused of fatally stabbing a German tourist and injuring two others steps away from the Eiffel Tower in Paris over the weekend.
At a news conference on Sunday, France’s top anti-terrorism prosecutor Jean-Francois Ricard said suspect Armand Rajabpour-Miyandoab, a French national, recorded a video speaking in Arabic before the attack in which he swore allegiance to the Islamic State group, used a name to introduce himself that referred to the Islamic State in Afghanistan and expressed support for Islamic extremists and jihadists operating in various areas around the world, including in Africa, Iraq, Syria, Egypt’s Sinai, Yemen, Iran and Pakistan.
Ricard said Rajabpour-Miyandoab and three others, including family members and associates, were taken into police custody for questions after the attack.
On Sunday, French Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne called a special cabinet meeting with key ministers and officials charged with security ‘to provide a full update on the security arrangements in place, the treatment of the most dangerous individuals and the aftermath of this fatal attack,’ her office said, according to The New York Times.
Rajabpour-Miyandoab could face a preliminary charge of murder in connection with a terrorist enterprise, Ricard said.
The prosecutor said the video was published on Rajabpour-Miyandoa’s account on X, which was opened last month, and his recent posts included references to the Israel-Hamas war.
Rajabpour-Miyandoab was born in 1997 in Neuilly-Sur-Seine, outside Paris, in a family with no religious affiliation. He converted to Islam at the age of 18 and quickly adhered to Islamic extremist ideology, according to Ricard. In 2016, he had planned to join the Islamic State group in Syria. The same year, he was convicted and imprisoned for four years, until 2020, on a charge of planning violence. He was under psychiatric treatment and was on a special list for feared radicals, the prosecutor confirmed.
Since a probation period during which he received mandatory psychiatric care ended earlier this year, Rajabpour-Miyandoab was placed under the surveillance of intelligence services, Ricard said. In October, his mother expressed ‘concerns’ over her son isolating himself, but no evidence was found that could have led to criminal proceedings, he added.
Speaking to broadcaster BFMTV, Darmanin said Monday that around one-third of suspected radicals under surveillance have psychiatric issues, arguing that authorities should be given greater powers to force psychiatric treatment on people in such cases.
‘There appears to have been a psychiatric failing because doctors on multiple occasions decided that he was better, that he was more normal and could live freely,’ the interior minister said of Rajabpour-Miyandoab, specifically.
Rajabpour-Miyandoab reportedly stopped to ask a German couple for a cigarette, then plunged his knife into the 22-year-old male victim, aiming at the head, then the back.
‘He knew where to strike,’ emergency physician Patrick Pelloux, who was among the first at the scene, told BFM-TV.
A taxi driver reportedly stopped to intervene, and as police pursued the suspect, he ran across a bridge and injured two more people, a Frenchman and a British citizen, with a hammer. Authorities said Rajabpour-Miyandoab shouted ‘Allahu Akbar,’ or ‘God is great’ while being taken into custody.
Ricard said the suspect had a history of contacts via social networks with one of the two men notorious for the gruesome killing of a priest during Mass in 2016 in Saint-Etienne du Rouvray. He said the suspect was also in touch with the man who killed a police couple at their home in Yvelines, west of Paris, a month earlier.
France has been under a heightened terror alert since the fatal stabbing in October of a teacher in the northern city of Arras by a former student originally from the Ingushetia region in Russia’s Caucasus Mountains and suspected of Islamic radicalization.
Three years earlier, another teacher, Samuel Paty, was killed outside Paris, beheaded by a radicalized Chechen later killed by police. Six teenagers are currently on trial in Paris for allegedly inciting the murder after Paty showed cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad in class during a discussion on secularism and freedom of expression.
The attack near the Eiffel Tower on Saturday night has drawn special concern for the French capital less than a year before it hosts the Olympic Games, with the opening ceremony due to take place along the River Sienne. Sports Minister Amélie Oudéa-Castéra insisted Monday that France was capable of safeguarding the opening festivities.
‘We don’t have a Plan B. There is a Plan A within which there are several sub-plans,’ Oudéa-Castéra said on France Inter radio.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.