France’s interior minister Gérald Darmanin said there were clear failures in the psychiatric care of a radicalised Islamist who stabbed a German tourist to death in central Paris at the weekend. The attacker and members of his family remain in custody as an investigation gets underway.
Speaking on French television channel BFMTV on Monday morning, Darmanin said: “There was clearly a failure, not from the point of view of his monitoring by the intelligence services, but a psychiatric failure,” adding the attacker had an “acute mental illness”.
“Doctors said on several occasions that he was doing better, was more normal and could be free,” the Interior Minister added.
Armand Rajabpour-Miyandoab, a French national of Iranian origin born in 1997, killed a 23-year-old German-Filipino man with two blows from a hammer and four from a knife on Saturday evening close to the Eiffel Tower. Two other people were injured.
Four people – the attacker and three other people from his family and close circle – were still in custody on Monday morning, French news agency AFP reported.
‘Terrorist plot’ probe after deadly Paris stabbing
The investigation is being handled by France anti-terror prosecutors who have launched a probe into a suspected “terrorist” plot.
German prosecutors announced they would open a parallel investigation.
Interior Minister Nancy Faeser had earlier said “the threat of Islamist terrorism is acute and serious”, saying “the war in Gaza” had “worsened the threat”.
On Sunday, France’s top anti-terror prosecutor Jean-François Ricard said the man’s mother had reported concerns about him as recently as October, but there was insufficient proof at the time to take legal action.
The 26-year-old suspect had pledged allegiance to Islamic State in a video recorded beforehand, according to Ricard.
He had already been arrested in 2016 for planning an attack, eventually serving four years in prison and under close watch following his release.
Rajabpour-Miyandoab had allegedly been radicalised through contacts on the Internet rather than meeting people at a mosque, Darmanin emphasised, adding the attacker had also been in touch with perpetrators of similar past attacks.
“Terrorism is changing and exploiting the weaknesses of our system,” said Darmanin.
Far-right call for more detentions, deportations
Meanwhile, far-right National Rally MP Marine Le Pen claimed on French radio on Monday that French intelligence services have been overwhelmed. She accused the government of not taking appropriate measures to off-set an increase in terrorist attacks.
“I’m not questioning the intelligence services – who are doing a very good job – but… they have too many people to keep track of,” Le Pen said on France Bleu Nord radio station.
“If we started by deporting all those foreigners from our country who are radicalised, if we already considered stripping [them] of their nationality and deporting those who have committed terrorist acts – or those who are radicalised – there would be far fewer people to keep track of,” Le Pen continued.
She also called for laws to be strengthened, mentioning “detention, which allows for much tighter control, or even imprisonment of those who are particularly dangerous … following their conviction for terrorist offences in particular”.
“The danger is increasing rather than decreasing”, she added, pointing out that there are “dozens of people coming out of prison every year who have been convicted of serious terrorist offences and who are still radicalised”.
On Sunday, RN president Jordan Bardella had already pointed to the government’s “weakness”, and called for the debate on security detention to be “reopened”.
Security jitters ahead of 2024 Olympics
The attack has amplified security concerns over the Olympics, due to begin with an unprecedented opening ceremony on the river Seine which experts see as a potential target for an attack.
Saturday’s attack occurred on the Quai de Grenelle – a spot included in the plans for the opening ceremony.
But Sports Minister Amelie Oudea-Castera said there was no plan to scrap the idea while indicating that the ceremony could be adapted.
“There is no plan B, we have a plan A within which we have several alternatives,” she told France Inter radio on Monday.
France has been on high alert since raising its security threshold in October, when a Chechen-origin man with a knife killed a teacher in a school in northern France.
European security officials have warned of a growing risk of attacks by Islamist militants amid the Israel-Hamas war, with the biggest threat likely from “lone wolf” assailants who are hard to track.