Last Thursday, Mickaël Harpon, an Islamist extremist who worked in the intelligence division of the Paris police department, murdered four of his colleagues, three men and one woman. Now Interior Minister Christophe Castaner is facing calls to resign because Harpon’s coworkers had warned their superiors Harpon had argued the 2015 Charlie Hebdo attack in which Islamic extremists murdered 12 people and wounded 17 others was justified, but he still wasn’t written up in France’s security database.
The New York Times noted, “The fact that this and other potential clues — including a video the killer posted on Facebook that imitated throat-cutting — were missed by the police administration that surrounded him, at the heart of an organization dedicated to fighting terrorism, has shocked the ranks of the national police.”
Eric Ciotti, a center-right member of Parliament, ripped Castaner, asserting on television, “What French citizen could think that this ministry is well run? This is not reassuring, in the face of what is an extreme menace to our country.”
The Wall Street Journal reported that Castaner said, “The failure was that there wasn’t an alert at that time.” He stated that Harpon’s remarks were totally unacceptable, intolerable, particularly for someone who works for the police.” Castaner said that an official at the prefecture’s internal security department frequently spoke with Harpon about the issue followed up with Harpon, even as recently as a few weeks ago, adding, “They had the feeling that everything was going well, but everything wasn’t okay.”
The Sun reported, “The assailant (Harpon) was armed with a ceramic knife which could not be picked up by metal detectors used by the building’s security, according to sources quoted by one local website.” Le Parisien added that Harpon attacked three male police officers in two offices on the first floor, then climbed the stairs to the second floor, where he attacked two women with the knife. The three men died, as did one of the women. Harpon then fled to the courtyard, where a policeman ordered him to stop; when he would not, the policeman shot him in the head.
The New York Times noted that contrary to early reports that Harpon was a recent convert to Islam, he had long ago converted, and was an “assiduous attendee of his local mosque, going to morning and evening prayers. A radical imam, who was nearly expelled from France, officiated there, a police union official said Friday.” France’s antiterrorism prosecutor, Jean-François Ricard, added that Harpon had contacts with “several individuals suspected of being part of the Salafist movement,” noting dozens of text messages he sent to his wife just before the attack indicated he believed in a “radical vision of Islam.”
The Journal quoted Éric Diard, who supervised an investigation on radicalization in French security, asserting, “What bothers me is that someone who seemed to present signs of radicalization could find himself in a job as sensitive as the intelligence office of the Paris police.”
The Journal noted that the volatility of Castener’s position could affect President Emmanuel Macron, who has had trouble finding members of his party to fill ministers’ positions.