Paris police headquarters stabbing

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Paris police headquarters stabbing
Map of Île de la Cité - OpenStreetMap 2015.svg
Map of Île de la Cité
LocationParis, France
Coordinates48°51′14.4″N 2°20′48.8″E / 48.854000°N 2.346889°E / 48.854000; 2.346889
Date3 October 2019 (2019-10-03)
c. 1:00 p.m.[1]
TargetPolice employees
Attack type
Mass stabbing
WeaponsCeramic knife[2]
Deaths5 (including the attacker)
PerpetratorMickaël Harpon

On 3 October 2019, a police employee at the Paris police headquarters stabbed four of his colleagues to death and injured two others. He was shot dead by police at the scene.


During the early afternoon of 3 October 2019, a police agent stabbed six colleagues at the Prefecture of Police on the Île de la Cité in central Paris, killing three police officers and one member of the support staff as well as injuring two others.[3][4] Police opened fire, killing the attacker in the building's main courtyard.[5][6][7] The attack came a day after police went on strike across France over increasing violence towards officers.[8]


The attacker was reported as being 45-year-old Mickaël Harpon, an IT specialist who worked in the intelligence unit of the police headquarters for the last 16 years and held a military secrecy security clearance, giving him access to restricted information like the watchlist of terror suspects, addresses of police officers and data on French citizens and their families who had returned after they fought in the Syrian Civil War.[6][7][9] He was born in Fort-de-France in the Caribbean overseas department of Martinique in 1974,[10] and had been deaf since childhood.[11] The murder weapon was a ceramic knife of a type undetectable by metal scanners.[12]


Initial reports suggested a workplace dispute was the motive. The day after the attack, a counter-terrorism investigation was opened,[13] looking into whether the attacker was a radicalised Islamist and the possibility of having been in contact with or received support from any terrorist groups.[14][15] The perpetrator had converted to Islam;[16] according to Paris prosecutor Jean-François Ricard his conversion to Islam took place a decade prior.[17][18] He attended mosque rituals twice a day.[19] Colleagues had reported Harpon in 2015 for voicing support for the attack on Charlie Hebdo; nothing was done.[9][20]

The counter-terrorism head said that the attacker had radical and extremist religious views, that started when he justified some violent acts with an Islamist background, stopped wearing Western clothes and to not talking to other women excluding those of his family. Ties between Harpon and Salafist men were also confirmed.[21][22] Before starting the attack, Harpon talked with his wife, and they exchanged a total of 33 messages. Among those, Harpon wrote "Allah Akbar" and "Follow our much-loved Prophet Muhammad, and meditate on the Quran".[23][24]

A USB flash drive was found at Harpon's office: propaganda material from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, including beheading videos,[25] and details of police officers who worked with him were found inside it. Officers are now investigating possible links with the 2016 Magnanville stabbing, in which two police officers were killed at their home by Larossi Abballa, an Islamist who pledged allegiance to the Islamic State.[4]

Five people linked to the attacker were arrested on 14 October 2019. Among those five was an imam listed in the Fiche S, a list of individuals deemed potential security threats.[26][27]

Political reaction[edit]

Following the incident, the police headquarters building was visited by President Emmanuel Macron, Prime Minister Édouard Philippe, Interior Minister Christophe Castaner and Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo.[10] The Île de la Cité was placed under a lockdown and the Cité station of the Paris Métro, located on the island, was closed to passengers.[7] Minister of the Interior Christophe Castaner faced calls to resign, which he rejected.[5]

Castaner received calls for his resignation from numerous prominent politicians from the entire spectrum from the extreme left to the extreme right.[28][29] Castaner had said in a press conference that the attacker had never shown any conspicuous behaviour. A day after this statement, when it became public that his coworkers had filed a complaint and that there was no investigation,[9] Castaner said there were "malfunctions" that failed to prevent the attack.[30]


  1. ^ "Employee kills four with knife at Paris police HQ". BBC News. 3 October 2019. Retrieved 3 October 2019.
  2. ^ "EN DIRECT – Attaque à la préfecture de police de Paris : quatre personnes tuées, l'assaillant abattu". Le Figaro (in French). 3 October 2019. Retrieved 3 October 2019.
  3. ^ Yohan Blavignat (6 October 2019). "Attaque à la préfecture de police de Paris: qui sont les victimes?". Le Figaro (in French). Retrieved 7 October 2019. Trois policiers - deux hommes et une femme - et un agent administratif sont morts dans l’attaque qui a frappé la préfecture de police jeudi 3 octobre. Une agente administrative dépendant des ressources humaines ainsi qu’un autre fonctionnaire ont été hospitalisés[in English?]
  4. ^ a b Vincent, Elise; Chapuis, Nicolas (7 October 2019). "Une clé USB avec les coordonnées de policiers trouvée au domicile de Mickaël Harpon". Le Monde (in French).
  5. ^ a b Dalton, Matthew (7 October 2019). "France Rocked by Extremist's Counterterror Role". The Wall Street Journal. Archived from the original on 7 October 2019.
  6. ^ a b "Paris police attack: Four killed by knife-wielding employee". BBC News. 3 October 2019.
  7. ^ a b c "Paris stabbing: Four people killed in knife rampage at police HQ". Independent. 3 October 2019. Retrieved 3 October 2019.
  8. ^ "Paris police attack: Four killed by knife-wielding employee". BBC News. 3 October 2019. Retrieved 4 October 2019.
  9. ^ a b c Wiegel, Michaela (5 October 2019). "Vertuschung auf höchsten Befehl". Frankfurter Allgemeine (in German). Retrieved 5 October 2019.
  10. ^ a b "Attaque dans la Préfecture de police de Paris : quatre personnes et l'assaillant sont morts". Le Monde (in French). 3 October 2019.
  11. ^ "Paris knifeman who fatally stabbed four people was 'trusted' deaf IT worker". Metro. 4 October 2019. Retrieved 4 October 2019.
  12. ^ "Attaque au couteau à la préfecture de police de Paris : ce que l'on sait". Le Figaro (in French). 3 October 2019. Retrieved 3 October 2019. Muni d'un couteau de cuisine en céramique, indétectable aux portiques de sécurité[in English?]
  13. ^ "Terror inquiry launched into Paris police killings". BBC News. 4 October 2019. Retrieved 4 October 2019.
  14. ^ "Attaque de Paris : l'enquête privilégie la piste terroriste". Le Figaro (in French). 4 October 2019. Retrieved 5 October 2019.
  15. ^ Breeden, Aurelien (4 October 2019). "Terrorism Motive Eyed in Paris Police Stabbing Attack". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 5 October 2019.
  16. ^ "Attaque à la préfecture de police de Paris : le parquet antiterroriste se saisit de l'enquête". Le Monde (in French). 4 October 2019. Retrieved 4 October 2019. Mickaël H. était marié depuis 2014 et s’était converti à l’islam [Mickaël H. was married since 2014 and converted to Islam]
  17. ^ Samuel, Henry (6 October 2019). "France probes security agency 'threats' after police killer with high-level clearance revealed as Islamic 'radical'". The Telegraph. ISSN 0307-1235. Retrieved 6 October 2019.
  18. ^ « Ce n'est pas la personne que je connaissais. » L'incompréhension d'un ami de Michaël Harpon qui le côtoyait depuis 5 ans (in French), BFMTV, retrieved 5 October 2019
  19. ^ Adam Nossiter (5 October 2019). "In Paris Knife Attack, Police Ask How They Missed a Killer in Their Midst". The New York Times. Retrieved 7 October 2019. a longtime convert to Islam, not a recent one as officials had said in the aftermath of the killings, and was an assiduous attendee of his local mosque, going to morning and evening prayers
  20. ^ "Killings expose French terror alert failure". BBC News. 7 October 2019. Retrieved 7 October 2019.
  21. ^ "Paris attacker showed signs of 'radicalisation'". BBC News. 5 October 2019.
  22. ^ "EN DIRECT - Attaque à la préfecture de police : "Un périple meurtrier de sept minutes"". LCI (in French). Retrieved 5 October 2019.
  23. ^ "Attaque de la préfecture de police de Paris : pourquoi l'acte de Michael Harpon peut-il être qualifié d'attentat". Linternaute (in French). Retrieved 5 October 2019.
  24. ^ Siad, Arnaud. "Paris police attacker followed a 'radical vision of Islam,' anti-terrorism prosecutor says". CNN. Retrieved 6 October 2019.
  25. ^ "Les infos de 12h30 - Attaque à la préfecture : ce que contenait la clé USB de Mickaël Harpon". RTL (French radio) (in French). 8 October 2019. Retrieved 8 October 2019. Dans un dossier séparé, du matériel de propagande de Daesh a été retrouvé, notamment des vidéos de décapitations[in English?]
  26. ^ "Five people arrested over Paris knife attack". BBC News. 14 October 2019. Retrieved 14 October 2019.
  27. ^ "French police arrest 5 people linked to deadly knife attack". DW.COM. Retrieved 14 October 2019.
  28. ^ Samuel, Henry (6 October 2019). "France probes security agency 'threats' after police killer with high-level clearance revealed as Islamic 'radical'". The Telegraph. ISSN 0307-1235. Retrieved 6 October 2019. The revelations of Harpon’s radicalism sparked opposition calls for the resignation of the interior minister
  29. ^ "«Errors were made» admits Castaner after the massacre at the Prefecture". L'Obs (in French). 6 October 2019. Retrieved 6 October 2019. Appelé à démissionner par de nombreuses personnalités politiques venues de l’extrême-gauche à l’extrême-droite[in English?]
  30. ^ "French security chief admits failings before police attack". The Star. Retrieved 6 October 2019.