The 2017 Notre Dame Attack

The attacker (left) lies on the ground after being shot.
The attacker (left) lies on the ground after being shot.

On 6 June 2017, at around 16:00 CET, French police shot a man who attacked a police officer with a hammer outside Notre Dame cathedral on the Île de la Cité, located in the center of Paris. The man, an Algerian doctorate student named Farid Ikken, injured the officer with the hammer, and was also in possession of kitchen knives. Officials are treating the incident as a terrorist attack.

Security officers searching the attacker’s apartment found a video in which he pledged allegiance to ISIS.

Background

The attack followed other attacks or attempted attacks on French landmarks in 2017, including the Louvre machete attack in February, the Orly airport attack in March, and the Champs-Elysées attack in April. French landmarks have received constant police protection because they are regarded as being “especially vulnerable,” and such security measures come amidst a state of emergency in France which has been ongoing since 2015.

Attack

According to a police spokesman, the perpetrator “approached a police officer, took a hammer from his backpack and hit the police officer over the head””

The perpetrator reportedly shouted “c’est pour la Syrie” (“this is for Syria”) during the attack, before being shot in the chest by another officer. After being shot, the perpetrator asserted being “un soldat du califat” (a soldier of the caliphate. Immediately after the incident, Gérard Collomb, the French Minister of the Interior, said the man had a form of identification indicating he was a student from Algeria. Nine hundred people were locked down inside the cathedral for two hours. American diplomat and national security expert Nancy Soderberg and her 16 year-old niece were among the visitors trapped inside the Cathedral; the international press ran photos tweeted out by Soderberg showing hundreds of visitors sitting with their hands in the air.

Perpetrator

Farid Ikken (born 1977 in Akbou, Algeria), who was in France legally as a PhD student of communications who had been registered at the University of Lorraine, Metz campus, since 2014. He had been writing a doctoral thesis on media in North Africa. His thesis advisor described him as a “strong advocate of western democracy.”

Farid Ikken
Farid Ikken

He was living in a rented flat in Cergy-Pontoise at the time of the attack. He additionally worked as a journalist in Sweden and Algeria. In 2009 he was awarded the “National Journalist Prize” from the European Commission for his work in Sweden. According to the Swedish Union of Journalists, Ikken won the general category of the EU Commission’s National Journalist Prize Against Discrimination for an article entitled Olaga vård (“Unlawful care”) published in the newspaper Folket i Bild. The article was about “asylum seekers who are not entitled to medical care and who are therefore forced to seek medical care, as well as healthcare staff and others who still provide health care to asylum seekers.” Ikken described himself as gratified to have been able to bring attention to the important topics of “discrimination and diversity”.

Born in Algeria, Ikken married a Swedish national and moved to Sweden in 2004. The marriage broke up in 2004. He studied journalism in both Stockholm and Uppsala. He worked as a freelance journalist for several newspapers and a radio station. Radio Sweden has confirmed that he worked for them as an intern for 6 weeks in 2010, reporting local news in Gothenberg. Swedish Security Service (Säpo) have stated that they have no previous knowledge of Ikken. In 2011 he returned to Algeria, where he worked as a journalist, created an online newsletter, and opening a public relations agency, before deciding to return to France and earn a PhD. According to relatives, he had grown up in a secular family, but became a devout Muslim while living in Sweden.

He had lived in France for three years and was writing a dissertation on information science and communications. He claimed to be a “soldier of the caliphate” for the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS). Police searched his residence and found a video in which he pledged allegiance to ISIS. According to government spokesman Christophe Castaner, Ikken “never showed any sign of radicalisation” before the attack.

On the day following the attack, Ikken was hospitalized for gunshot wounds to the chest and was reported to be recovering. Ikken has been charged with attempted murder. The investigation has been assigned to the antiterrorist section of the criminal Brigade and to the General Directorate for Internal Security (DGSI). Prosecutor Francois Molins described perpetrator as an intellectual and a successful man who had never given the slightest indication of Islamist sympathies. Molins said that Ikken had described himself as having radicalized himself over the course of 10 months.

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