World

7 wounded including 2 British tourists in Paris knife attack

Suspect arrested after being tackled to the ground by passers-by

PARIS: Seven people, including two British tourists, were wounded in Paris on Sunday after they were attacked by a man armed with a knife and an iron bar, according to police and other sources.

A source close to the inquiry said the suspect, believed to be an Afghan national, has been arrested.

"Nothing at this stage shows signs of a terrorist nature in these assaults," the source said, adding that the attacker had targeted "strangers in the street".

Of the seven wounded, four are in a critical condition, police said.

The incident took place just after 11pm (5am the next day, Singapore time) on the banks of a canal in the north-east of the French capital.

A security guard at one of two cinemas on either side of the Bassin de la Villette, part of the Canal de l'Ourcq, said he saw a man who had already assaulted people being chased by two other men who tried to stop him.

"He had an iron bar in his hand which he threw at the men chasing him, then he took out a knife," he told AFP.

Another witness, 28-year-old Youssef Najah, said he was walking along the canal near a bowling green when he saw a man running and holding a knife about 25 to 30cm long.

"There were around 20 people chasing him. They started throwing petanque balls at him," Mr Najah said, referring to the sport also known as boules.

"Around four or five balls hit him in the head, but they weren't able to stop him," he added.

7 wounded including 2 British tourists in Paris knife attack
(Above) A person holding a mobile phone showing the face of the alleged attacker. PHOTO: EPA

According to the same witness, the attacker then dived into an alleyway, and "tried to hide behind two British tourists. We said to them: 'Watch out, he has a knife". But they didn't react".

The pair were then attacked, he said.

Another witness described how one man managed to stop the attacker. "Someone with a wooden stick smashed him across the knees and he fell to the ground," he said.

"Loads of people arrived, some were saying 'kill him' but one guy who was pinning him down said 'No, the last thing we must do is kill him.'"

Police and ambulance crews arrived on the scene shortly afterwards, witnesses said, and the man was taken into custody.

A police investigation has been launched for attempted murder, according to a judicial source.

It is the latest of several knife attacks France has seen in recent months, with terrorism being ruled out in most cases.

On Aug 23, a man stabbed his mother and sister to death and seriously injured another person in a town near Paris before being shot dead by police.

The motive for the violence remained unclear. Authorities said the 36-year-old had serious mental health problems and had been on a terror watch list since 2016.

That attack came days after an Afghan asylum-seeker was arrested in the town of Perigueux for a drunken rampage with a knife in which four people were wounded, one seriously. Police said investigators had "very quickly" dismissed a terrorist motive after the August 13 incident.

France has been on high alert following a string of jihadist attacks in recent years, often by people who have become radicalised or claim to have acted in the name of the Islamic State group. - AFP, REUTERS

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