“This was a close call,” ABC’s Terry Moran says in this report from Paris, “a very close call.” At least one and possibly multiple churches in Paris narrowly avoided a bloodbath this weekend, in large part due to the incompetence of the Islamist terrorist intending to massacre their congregations. The thus-far unnamed Algerian immigrant shot himself by accident in his car, preparing to set up for his murder spree. Police later found extremist Islamist tracts at his apartment, as well as a dead woman who had been the terrorist’s first target, selected at random:
An Islamic extremist with an arsenal of loaded guns was only prevented from opening fire on Sunday morning churchgoers because he accidentally shot himself, French officials said.
The 24-year-old computer science student, who was also suspected in the death of a young woman whose body was found on Sunday just ahead of his arrest, had been flagged as a risk last year and earlier this year but there was no specific reason to open a judicial investigation, Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve said Wednesday.
A French security official, who was not authorized to publicly release details, said the suspect — an Algerian who had lived in France for several years — was arrested in Paris Sunday after he apparently shot himself by accident and called for an ambulance. He was waiting outside for first aid when police arrived at the scene. They discovered a blood trail leading to his car, which contained loaded guns and notes about potential targets.
France24 reports that the terrorist had prepared for a long mission, and to spread confusion in its wake:
In an eerie reminder of January’s Charlie Hebdo attacks, in which 17 people were killed by Islamist gunmen, the haul included a number of handguns, a Kalashnikov assault rifle and bullet proof vests. A search of the man’s apartment later uncovered three more Kalashnikov rifles.
“Documents were also found that establish without any ambiguity that this individual was planning an attack on one or two churches,” Cazeneuve said .
According to RTL radio, police also discovered flashing blue lights of the type that fix magnetically to police car roofs, as well as orange “Police” armbands that are used by French plainclothes officers.
The suspect himself wasn’t unknown to French authorities, though:
Cazeneuve added that the man, who has not been named, was known to intelligence services for wanting to fight with jihadists in Syria.
Le Monde said the man had settled in France from Algeria in 2009. Cazeneuve said he had been under surveillance since 2014 when he made it known he wished to go to Syria to join jihadis there. He disappeared in February this year and was found to have spent a week in Turkey. He was arrested, briefly held, and given a warning on his return, but his profile was not thought to justify further action beyond circulating a security warning.
The French prime minister, Manuel Valls, said on Wednesday: “Our country, like others, this last few weeks is facing an unprecedented terrorist threat. The terrorists are targeting France to divide us. The response must be to protect our citizens but also to unify.
They may need to rethink those thresholds of criminality after this incident. One woman ended up dead for no reason, and the surveillance of this subject failed so utterly that only his self-dangerous incompetence kept him from murdering more than a young mother leaving a gym.