PARIS: Questions arose yesterday over how a known radical Islamist who rammed a car into a police van on Paris’s Champs-Elysees was able to hold a gun license. Adam Djaziri, a 31-year-old who had been on a watchlist for radical Islamists since 2015, was killed on Monday as his car loaded with a gas canister smashed into the van on the French capital’s most famous avenue. Two handguns and a Kalashnikov-style assault rifle were found in the car, while a weapons stash was found at the home of the assailant, who died in the incident.
Djaziri’s father, who has since been detained, told AFP that his son was a licensed gun-owner, and a source close to the probe said he owned nine weapons including pistols and an assault rifle. The attempted attack comes with France still under a state of emergency after a wave of jihadist assaults that have left more than 230 people dead since 2015.
As the one-month-old government of President Emmanuel Macron prepares to unveil a tougher new anti-terrorism law, Prime Minister Edouard Philippe expressed dismay that Djaziri was able to have a gun permit despite being on a jihadist watchlist. “What I know at this stage is that the first weapons permit was given before this individual was flagged up,” he said in an interview with BFM television and RMC radio, but he added that “no one can be satisfied – and certainly not me” that Djaziri had evidently still been able to possess dangerous weapons.
Djaziri’s ex-wife, brother and sister-in-law were detained late on Monday after police questioned them at the family home in Plessis-Pate outside Paris. Djaziri’s father was also taken into custody, a judicial source said. Burn marks were found on Djaziri’s body but it was not yet clear how he died, according to a source close to the investigation. There were no other casualties from the attempted attack, and no group claimed responsibility.
Since the Nov 2015 Paris attacks that saw 130 people slaughtered, and last year’s Nice truck assault that claimed 86 lives, the country has seen a string of smaller attacks targeting security forces. Djaziri died just a short distance on the Champs-Elysees from the spot where a jihadist shot dead a police officer two months ago. Earlier this month an Algerian man attacked a policeman with a hammer outside Notre Dame cathedral, another key tourist draw, while troops shot dead a man at the capital’s Orly airport in March after he attacked a soldier on patrol.
Few details have emerged of the new anti-terrorism law due to be unveiled Wednesday, but a draft leaked to the daily Le Monde has sparked concern among civil liberties campaigners who worry the emergency measures could become permanent. The measures allow security forces to monitor suspects and carry out searches without warrants, place suspects under house arrest and ban public gatherings. The current state of emergency is due to expire on July 15 but the government is seeking to extend it until Nov 1 – presumably after the new anti-terrorism law takes effect. Interior Minister Gerard Collomb said Monday that the Champs-Elysees incident “shows once again that the threat level remains extremely high in France”. – AFP