The bloody attack on two journalists who smoked in front of Charlie Hebdo’s former offices was an act of “Islamic terrorism”, according to a French minister.
Police arrested a man with blood-stained clothes called Ali H yesterday at the crime scene in Paris, who was suspected of carrying out the knives.
It coincided with the start of the trial of 14 alleged accomplices in the Charlie Hebdo massacre in 2015, in which 12 people were shot.
The alleged attacker came from Pakistan and came to France three years ago as an unaccompanied minor, said Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin.
“But it is obviously an act of Islamist terrorism,” Darmanin said in an interview with France 2 television.
“Obviously there is little doubt. It is another bloody attack against our country, against journalists, against this society.”
He said he had ordered law enforcement officers to step up protection in all places where Islamist attacks had taken place in the past, and in synagogues where the city’s Jewish community celebrated the Yom Kippur holiday this weekend.
The victims of Friday’s attack were taken to hospital but their lives were not in danger, officials said.
Nathan Messas, a doctor who lives near the attack site on Friday, said he had brought back memories of the Charlie Hebdo shooting.
“Hate again, unfounded hatred,” he said. “I was here five years ago.
“We’re back five years later. I don’t know when this will end.”
Investigators say the previous attack on Hebdo was carried out by militants who wanted to avenge the publication of cartoons depicting the Prophet Mohammad in the magazine.
Hebdo republished the cartoons on the eve of the trial this month.
The prime suspect in the attack on Friday is 18 years old, a police source said, but he was not on a security watchlist.
He was arrested a month ago for carrying a screwdriver and released with a warning, the minister said.
A second suspect was arrested shortly after the attack and prosecutors tried to establish his relationship with the knife attacker.
The second man is Algerian, according to a police source.
Witnesses said the attacker fled to the subway and the company’s employees were evacuated.
Later on Friday, another five people were arrested after police raided property linked to the prime suspect in a northeastern suburb of Paris, a court source told Reuters.
Charlie Hebdo cleared its offices after the 2015 attack and is now in a secret location.
The building is now used by a television production company.
According to prosecutors and a colleague of the victims, two employees of the production company, a man and a woman, were on the street and were having a cigarette break when they were attacked.
A local resident who gave his name as Albert told Reuters he heard a long, fatal scream from “a person who screamed and screamed”.
Immediately afterwards, a neighbor said she saw blood on the floor and people dragged a wounded woman into the office building.
She said workers repairing the road told her “a dark-skinned man accidentally hit a woman with a large butcher’s knife” in front of a mural serving as a memorial to the victims of the 2015 attack.
Paul Moreira, a journalist with the media production company Premieres Lignes, told French broadcaster BFM TV that it was his colleagues who were attacked.
“It’s someone who was out with a meat cleaver and attacked you in front of our offices. It was cold.”
France has seen a number of attacks by militant Islamists in recent years.
130 people were killed in bombings and shootings in November 2015 at the Bataclan Theater and in locations near Paris. In July 2016, an Islamic militant drove a truck through a crowd celebrating Bastille Day in Nice, killing 86 people.
Al-Qaeda, the militant Islamist group that took responsibility for the 2015 attack, threatened to attack Charlie Hebdo again after republishing the cartoons this month.
Police took Charlie Hebdo’s hiring manager away from home this week after threatening her life.
The magazine’s staff issued a statement expressing their support for the victims of Friday’s attack.
“Far from terrorizing us, such events should make us even more confident in defending our values,” the statement said.
Charlie Hebdo recently republished the controversial cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed that sparked outrage in the Muslim world.