Paris Knife Attacker: Naturalized Frenchman From Russia Was On A Radical Watch List

Thibault CamusAP Images

On Saturday, a 20-year-old man yelling “Allahu akbar” was shot dead by police after fatally stabbing a 29-year-old man and wounding four others. The 20-year-old was named Khamzat Azimov and was originally from Chechen in Russia. He became a naturalized French citizen in 2010 and grew up in Strasbourg of eastern France. Azimov did not have a criminal history prior to the knife attack.

The incident took place in a busy neighborhood filled with people, bars, and restaurants by the opera house. It’s also close to the Louvre museum, making it a hotspot for tourists.

Witnesses described the chaotic scene, as one man said, “the attacker entered a shopping street, I saw him with a knife in his hand…He looked crazy.” France 24’s journalist Charles Pellegrin happened to be leaving the opera house as the attack was taking place but was told by a man on the street to get back inside because there was “a madman with a knife.” Tourists told Pellegrin that “a man started stabbing people randomly, some on the street, some in restaurants.”

Police responded quickly, and within nine minutes of the first emergency call, Azimov had been shot. Police tried to taser him before they used lethal force.

Within hours of the knife attack, ISIS claimed responsibility. On Sunday, ISIS’s propaganda agency Amaq distributed a video where Azimov declared his allegiance to the group.

The French government maintains a watch list referred to as the “S List” which tracks potentially radicalized individuals. Azimov was placed on the S List in 2016 when it was discovered that he had ties to a man whose wife tried to travel to Syria, reported the New York Times. Marie Le Pen, leader of the National Front asked, “what use are the S Files if we don’t use them to neutralize these time bombs on French soil?”

Authorities report that the list has roughly 20,000 names and that there are not enough resources to track everyone closely. Some have called for extreme measures, saying everyone on the S List ought to be interned or ejected from the country.

As of Sunday, Asimov’s parents and a friend were taken into custody by police for questioning. Police searched the family’s apartment for clues.

France has been plagued with major and lone wolf Islamist attacks, including one at Charlie Hebdo in 2015 with 130 casualties and the Bastille Day truck attack in 2016 with 80 casualties.