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Tuesday, 11 September 2018

Paris knife rampage: Two British tourists among seven wounded as bystanders throw boules at attacker

Paris knife rampage: Two British tourists among seven wounded as bystanders throw boules at attackerSeven people including two British tourists were wounded in Paris after they were attacked by a man armed with a knife and an iron bar, say police. Bystanders tried to stop the attacker by throwing petanque balls at him after he went on the rampage next to a canal in the northeast of the capital. A source close to the inquiry said the suspect has been arrested and is believed to be an Afghan national. "Nothing at this stage shows signs of a terrorist nature in these assaults," the sources said, adding that the attacker had targeted "strangers in the street". They believe he may have mental and drug issues. Of the seven wounded, four are in a serious condition but not thought to be life-threatening. French media said one British tourist has a chest injury while another was stabbed in the head. Police markers next to evidence on the pavement after seven people were wounded in the attack  Credit: GONZALO FUENTES /Reuters Panic swept along the banks of the Bassin de la Villette, an area popular with locals and visitors who frequent the cafes, cinemas and other cultural venues along its banks, shortly after 11pm local time. Witness Youssef Najah, 28, said he was walking beside the canal when he saw a man running and holding a knife about 25-30 cm (10-11 inches) long. "There were around 20 people chasing him. They started throwing petanque balls at him," Mr Najah told AFP, referring to the sport popular in France also known as boules. "Around four or five balls hit him in the head, but they weren't able to stop him," he added. French police at the scene of the attack, on the banks of the Bassin de la Villette Credit: ZAKARIA ABDELKAFI /AFP According to the same witness, the attacker then dived into an alleyway, where the man "tried to hide behind two British tourists. We said to them: 'Watch out, he has a knife". But they didn't react". The pair were then attacked, he said. One bystander whose first name is Smain reportedly managed to disarm the assailant after chasing him with a stick. "I saw the man go by. I didn't understand at first. Then he went towards the swimming pool on the canal. That's where he started hitting people with an iron bar then he stabbed someone. Girls started screaming," he told Le Parisien. People started fleeing the scene "but the English didn't understand what the guys were shouting and he stabbed them," he said, adding that he hoped they had survived. He added: "But the three youths with boules kept following him. At that moment, he turned round. The youths stopped him coming back. He tried to attack one of them but he managed to avoid being stabbed." Four more people turned up. "We managed to surround him, me with a stick, another with an iron bar. One of us hit him. One threw a boule, another a broken wooden crate at his back. He threatened us with his knife in all directions," he told Le Parisien. When the assailant lost his balance he said he managed to "strike the hand holding the knife". "Then I jumped on him and got him  on the ground. I managed to get him to drop his weapon," Smain told the newspaper.   "I'm not a hero. Anyone would have done it," he added. Police sources said there was no sign that the attack was terror-related Credit:  GONZALO FUENTES/Reuters The assailant failed to explain his actions.  "He didn't say anything even when we caught him and some asked him: why did you do that?," he said. "He looked drugged. It's not possible to keep going like he did when you've been hit several times like that with boules, iron bars and a stick." "One person alone wouldn't have been able to do much. But I'm happy to have intervened with others otherwise he could have caused even more damage - there were lots of people in the direction he was going." A Foreign Office spokesman said that "two Britons were among the people targeted".  "We are urgently investigating this incident and are in close contact with the French authorities." This is the latest of several knife attacks France has seen in recent months. Terrorism has been ruled out in most cases. On August 23, a man stabbed his mother and sister to death and seriously injured another person in a town near Paris before being shot dead by police. The Islamic State group claimed responsibility but the motives remain unclear. Authorities said the 36-year-old had serious mental health problems and had been on a terror watch list since 2016. That attack came days after an Afghan asylum-seeker was arrested in town of Perigueux for a drunken rampage with a knife in which four people were wounded, one seriously. On June 17, two people were hurt in another southern town when a woman shouting "Allahu akbar" (God is greatest) attacked them in a supermarket with a boxcutter knife. France has been on high alert following a string of jihadist attacks in recent years. More than 240 people have been killed by Islamist extremists since a massacre at the Charlie Hebdo satirical magazine in Paris in January 2015.




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