President Barack Obama and French President François Hollande discussed a knife attack outside Paris, and the mass shooting in Orlando, Florida, yesterday (14 June) – attacks for which Islamic State claimed responsibility, the White House said.
“Both leaders reaffirmed their shared commitment to degrading and destroying ISIL and standing against the broader scourge of terrorism,” the White House said in a statement, using an acronym for Islamic State, also known as ISIS.
On Sunday (12 June), a shooter who claimed affiliation with Islamic State killed 53 people and wounded 50 others in a gay night club in Orlando.
On 13 June, a Frenchman who pledged allegiance to Islamic State, stabbed a police commander to death outside his home and killed his partner, who also worked for the police, in an attack the government denounced as “an abject act of terrorism”.
Larossi Abballa, 25, also took the couple’s three-year-old son hostage in Monday night’s attack. The boy was found unharmed but in a state of shock after police commandos stormed the house and killed the attacker.
Born in France of Moroccan origin, Abballa was jailed in 2013 for helping Islamist militants go to Pakistan and had been under security service surveillance, including wiretaps, at the time of the attack, Paris prosecutor Francois Molins said.
The attacker told police negotiators during the siege he had answered an appeal by Iraq-based Islamic State chief Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi “to kill infidels at home with their families”, Molins told a news conference.
“The killer said he was a practicing Muslim, was observing Ramadan and, that three weeks ago, he had pledged allegiance to … Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi,” Molins said.
List of targets?
Police found a bloodied knife at the scene along with a list of other potential targets including rap musicians, journalists and police officers, the prosecutor said.
The killings came as France, which has been under a state of emergency since Islamic State gunmen and bombers killed 130 people in Paris last November, was on high security alert for the Euro 2016 soccer tournament, which began last Friday (10 June).
In a video posted on social networks, Abballa linked the attack to the soccer championship, saying: “The Euros will be a graveyard.”
The video had been removed from Facebook on Tuesday. Michelle Gilbert, a Paris-based spokeswoman for Facebook, said the company’s guidelines forbade hate messages and aimed to remove such content swiftly from the website once alerted.
Islamic State claimed the attack. “God has enabled one of the caliphate’s soldiers in city of Les Mureaux near Paris to stab to death the deputy police chief and his wife,” a broadcast on its Albayan Radio said.
Hollande said the killings were “undeniably a terrorist act” and that the terrorist threat in France was very high.
Police searched Abballa’s home and other locations yesterday and detained three people close to him for questioning.
US officials have been in touch with French authorities about the killing of a French police commander and his partner by a man who may have had an affiliation with Islamic State militants, the White House said yesterday (14 June).
White House spokesman Josh Earnest said this was “obviously a concerning situation” for the USA.
“Our counter-terrorism partnership is critical to the security of both of our countries,” he added. “So I would anticipate that the United States will do what we can to assist French authorities as they conduct this investigation.”