World The Enemy Within: How a Member of French Intelligence Turned to Terror
French anti-terror prosecutor takes on investigation in Paris attack
The Paris prosecutor's anti-terror unit has taken on the investigation into a deadly knife attack on police headquarters, a source at the prosecutor's office told Reuters on Friday. © Getty PARIS, FRANCE - OCTOBER 03: Police block the bridge near Paris Police headquarters after four officers were killed in a knife attack on October 3, 2019 in Paris, France. A civilian police worker wielding a knife stabbed and killed four officers at the police headquarters before being shot dead.
PARIS—As police intelligence agents in Paris tracked Islamist radicals over the summer, one of their longtime colleagues was quietly embracing a more extreme version of his Muslim faith.
While away from the office, Mickaël
French anti-terror prosecutor takes on investigation in Paris attack
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During his lunch break on October 3, Harpon bought two knives, returned to the office and stabbed four of his colleagues to death. He wounded a fifth one before a rookie police officer shot him dead.
As one of the unit’s information technology specialists,
Paris police attacker had 'radical vision of Islam'
A staffer at Paris police headquarters who stabbed four colleagues to death seems to have adhered to "a radical vision of Islam", anti-terror prosecutor Jean-Francois Ricard said Saturday. The assailant, a 45-year-old computer expert, had been in contact with members of the "Salafist Islamist movement", Ricard told reporters. The assailant, a 45-year-old computer expert, had been in contact with members of the "Salafist Islamist movement", Ricard told reporters.
The attack has stunned France and its sprawling counterterrorism apparatus, shattering confidence in the security-services’ procedures for detecting extremists in their midst. Investigators are examining whether Harpon compromised ongoing operations and revealed the identity of undercover police agents.
Authorities discovered several USB flash drives at his desk, one containing the personal information of agents and violent Islamist propaganda, authorities said. Some 160 agents are poring over the data on that flash drive, officials said.
A key question is whether Harpon downloaded that data onto the flash drive for his job as an information technology assistant in the division—which monitors online Islamist propaganda—or to send it to his extremist contacts that could use it to target the police.
The information that has emerged from the investigation so far portrays Harpon as a capable employee who was growing more rigorous in his faith and struggling with a disability that he believed was short-circuiting his career in the police.
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Born in the French Caribbean island of Martinique,
The independence of its intelligence division came with a price, often putting it into conflict with France’s main domestic security agency, the DGSI, which has nationwide jurisdiction.
“They didn’t share much,” said Bernard Squarcini, who was France’s domestic intelligence chief from 2008 through 2012. “They considered themselves to be autonomous.”
France admits 'failings' over Paris police attacker's radicalisation
France's interior minister acknowledged Sunday that officials should have kept a closer eye on the Paris police employee who stabbed four colleagues to death last week, after investigators found evidence he had supported an extreme version of Islam. "Obviously, there were failings," Christophe Castaner told TF1 television, but he said he would not resign over the matter as some rightwing opponents have said he should.
“Their security measures are not as strong as the other services,” Mr. Squarcini added.
A spokeswoman for the Interior Ministry said the Paris police intelligence unit had started working more closely with the DGSI since Mr. Squarcini left. She added that comparing the unit’s internal security procedures with those of the DGSI didn’t make sense given the DGSI’s broader mission, which includes counterespionage.
In 2008, she filed a complaint against him for assault. Though she later withdrew it,
Six years later,
“There wasn’t a check,” Mr. Castaner said. “Would that have changed things? I don’t know. But that’s a malfunction.”
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Months after the attack, one of
The employee reported the comment to his superiors, but officials neither placed a mention of it in
“A serious malfunction,” Mr. Castaner said.
In recent years,
“He felt people didn’t take him seriously because of his handicap,” Abdelaziz said.
The night before the attack, neighbors reported they heard him shout out prayers.
The next morning,
His wife told investigators she thought he was going to kill himself.
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