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Officials: French police attacker pledged allegiance to IS

Posted at 8:27 AM, Jun 14, 2016

PARIS (AP) — A man who stabbed a police commander and police administrator to death at their home in a Paris suburb pledged loyalty to the leader of the Islamic State group and had a list of other targets, including rappers, journalists, police officers and public officials, the Paris prosecutor said Tuesday.

Prosecutor Francois Molins said attacker Larossi Abballa made the declaration of allegiance to Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi in exchanges with officers during a three-hour standoff Monday night in the suburb of Magnanville, about 35 miles (55 kilometers) west of Paris. He was eventually killed by police.

Abballa was responding to IS calls to "kill non-believers where they live," and with their families, Molins said. IS news agency Amaq cited an unnamed source as saying an IS fighter carried out the attack and prosecutor's office spokeswoman Agnes Thibault-Lecuivre said French authorities have "no reason" to doubt the claim.

Molins said Abballa stabbed Jean-Baptiste Salvaing, 42, a police commander in the Paris suburb of Les Mureaux, outside his home late Monday. He then went inside and took Salvaing's partner and 3-year-old son hostage. He killed the woman, who was a police administrator in the suburb of Mantes-la-Jolie, but did not harm the boy, Molins said.

Abballa recorded a 12-minute video related to the attack and posted it on Facebook, Molins said, but he did not provide further details or confirm an earlier report from a police official who said Abballa posted the video on Facebook's live-streaming service, Facebook Live.

Molins said three people —ages 27, 29 and 44 — were detained Tuesday in the investigation. He did not provide any other details.

French President Francois Hollande said earlier Tuesday that it was "incontestably a terrorist act" and that France faces a threat "of a very large scale."

The country has been on particularly high alert as it hosts Europe's top sporting event, the monthlong European Championship soccer tournament, and is still under a state of emergency after the November IS attacks in Paris that killed 130 people.

Hollande held an emergency security meeting Tuesday.

"France is not the only country concerned (by the terrorist threat), as we have seen, again, in the United States, in Orlando," he said.

Abballa, 25, was from Mantes-la-Jolie and was sentenced in 2013 to three years in prison for recruiting fighters for jihad in Pakistan, according to two police officials. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to be publicly named discussing investigations.

A resident of the apartment building where Abballa lived, who did not want to give his name, said police raided it early Tuesday.

Neighborhood resident Henriette Yenge, who lives and works near the building, said she would say hello to Abballa when he went to the mosque around the corner.

"He was a neighborhood kid," she said. "I was surprised it was him. It's sad to see things like that."

A Facebook profile bearing the name Larossi Abballa — which vanished from the internet early Tuesday — showed a photo of a smiling, bearded man. Two recent posts featured videos critical of Israel and Saudi Arabia. The last publicly available post was a mock-up of the European Championship logo, highlighting what the poster said were masonic and occult symbols.

"Some will say we see evil everywhere!" Abballa said in a message posted about 18 hours before the attack.

On Tuesday, Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve visited the police station in Les Mureaux where Salvaing worked. He said more than 100 people seen as potential threats have been arrested in France this year, including in recent weeks.

France, like other countries in Europe, has seen a series of stabbings aimed at police officers or soldiers and carried out by Muslim radicals.

Monday's attack shook police officers, and Cazeneuve said they would be allowed to take home their service weapons.

"Today every police officer is a target," Yves Lefebvre of police union Unite SGP Police-FO told The Associated Press. He says attackers are "professionalizing" and can now find police in their homes.

In Paris, the Eiffel Tower was lit up Monday night in the colors of a rainbow to honor victims of Saturday's mass shooting at a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida, that killed at least 49 people. The gunman declared his allegiance to IS in phone calls to police, but his motives remain unclear.