A terror probe is underway in Paris after two journalists were stabbed in broad daylight today near the former offices of Charlie Hebdo.
A man and a woman were seriously wounded after being attacked with a meat cleaver while out for a cigarette break, although both are expected to survive.
Police have arrested two men – a ‘main perpetrator’ and another suspect – after they were spotted with blood on their clothes near the Opera Bastille.
A terrorism investigation has been opened and police are investigating whether the attackers had links to terrorist groups.
The victims work for Premieres Lignes, a French news and video agency whose staff rushed to help Charlie Hebdo survivors after the 2015 terror rampage which killed 12 people.
Charlie Hebdo, which now publishes its magazine from a secret location, recently re-published the controversial cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed which had provoked outrage in the Muslim world.
Today’s stabbings come during the trial of 14 suspects who allegedly helped plot the 2015 attack, with proceedings suspended on Friday in the wake of the latest violence.
One of the stabbing victims is treated after the meat cleaver attack near Charlie Hebdo’s former offices in Paris today. Both victims are expected to survive
At least four people have been stabbed close to the former headquarters of Charlie Hebdo magazine in Paris
Two of the victims are in ‘an extremely bad way’, said an investigating source, following the attacks on Friday afternoon
Forensic experts work at the scene after the rampage which has left two in a criticial condition
Two men have been arrested after they were spotted with blood on their clothes near the attack
Two of the victims have been confirmed as a man and a woman who are employees of Premieres Lignes, a French news and video agency
One suspected attacker was arrested on the steps of the Bastille Opera after witnesses spotted blood dripping from his clothes, said an investigating source.
‘He was arrested within minutes by police, and then a second man was arrested on a Metro train because of suspicions that he may be connected with the attack,’ they said.
After conflicting reports of whether there were one or two attackers, the Paris prosecutor said a ‘main attacker’ had been arrested along with a ‘second suspect’.
One witness at the Bastille Plaza, Kader Alfa, said he ‘saw a guy that was in his 30s or 40s with an axe in his hand who was walking behind a victim covered in blood’.
Both suspects were taken to a high-security police station in central Paris, where they were being questioned on Friday afternoon.
Neither of the men have been identified, but one is said to be 18 years old.
French PM Jean Castex said two journalists had been wounded while taking a cigarette break, calling the crime scene a ‘symbolic place’ during the terror trial.
The pair work in the production team for the company which has released a number of documentaries and previously won a Pulitzer Prize for work on the Panama Papers investigation.
Castex initially said four people were injured, but the Paris prosecutor later clarified that there were two victims.
One police source said a machete had been found at the scene. Another police sources said a meat cleaver had been found there.
The two people are in ‘an extremely bad way’, said an investigating source, although their lives are not thought to be in danger.
‘I was in my office. I heard screams in the road. I looked out of the window and saw a woman who was lying on the floor and had taken a whack in the face from what was possibly a machete,’ a witness told Europe 1 radio.
‘I saw a second neighbour on the floor and I went to help.’
A witness from the production company said she saw the attack being carried out.
She told AFP: ‘Two colleagues were smoking a cigarette at the bottom of the building. I heard screams and went to the window and saw one of my colleagues stained with blood, being followed by a man with a machete on the street.’
Premieres Lignes founder Paul Moreira told BFM television that the attacker fled into the metro, and the company’s staff members were evacuated.
It is unclear what motivated the attack or whether it had any link to Charlie Hebdo, which moved offices after they were attacked by Islamic extremists in 2015.
An investigation was opened into ‘attempted murder in relation with a terrorist enterprise,’ according to an official at the prosecutor’s office.
Castext attended the scene, which he described as ‘a very serious attack’ involving a man with a meat cleaver.
French soldiers rush to the scene after people were injured following the attack by a man wielding a knife
Witnesses said two of the victims were having a cigarette break outside their office when the attack took place
Witness Hassani Erwan, 23, told AFP: ‘At around midday, we went to have lunch at a restaurant but as we were arriving, the owner started to cry ‘leave, leave, there’s an attack!’
‘We immediately ran away and locked ourselves ourselves inside a shop with four other customers.’
A person who lives on the street told Le Parisien: ‘It’s starting again, the same fear there was five years ago, the same images in the street, it’s heart-breaking.’
Police said there was ‘extreme concern’ today that those responsible for the stabbings might strike again.
Local schools in the 3rd, 4th and 11th arrondissements have been shut down, and people are being advised to stay in their offices and homes.
Valérie Pécresse, president of the Ile-de-France region of Paris, said: ‘Extremely shocked by the murderous attack near the former offices of Charlie Hebdo, in a Paris arrondissement which has already paid a heavy price for violent terrorism.
‘I give all my support to the authorities which are now tracking the perpetrator.’
Murmurs broke at the terrorism trial as the news of Friday’s filtered through to the courtroom.
Charlie Hebdo now publishes from a secret address in Paris, and many staff members have bodyguards.
Moreira, the production company founder, described today how Premieres Lignes had been on the front line of the 2015 massacre.
‘We were there during the Charlie Hebdo attack. We were among the first to enter the room, we had helped the survivors.
‘We note that there is now the trial of the January 2015 attacks, and that it is the same building. There are people who think that it is still the premises of Charlie Hebdo.’
Following the attacks in 2015, Premieres Lignes staff member Edouard Perrin said they barricaded the entrance to their own offices, and put bulletproof vests on.
‘We took refuge on the roof,’ said Mr Perrin. ‘This is when I start filming on my laptop. There was an exchange of fire between the police and the terrorists coming out of the building. ‘Bullets were whistling above our heads. In all, about fifty were shot, and I filmed the last ten shots.
‘My fear was that they would see us, come back and finish us. We are journalists and, for them, we are not just civilians.’
Charlie Hebdo (former offices pictured) now publishes from a secret address in Paris, and many staff members have bodyguards
Police said there was ‘extreme concern’ today that those responsible for the stabbings might strike again
Local schools in the 3rd, 4th and 11th arrondissements have been shut down, and people are being advised to stay in their offices and homes
It comes as a trial takes place in the French capital concerned with the January 2015 attacks that shocked the world after 12 people died.
Their primary targets were staff at the satirical magazine which had published a series of cartoons mocking the Prophet Mohammed.
The principal terrorists – who were all known to the French security services – were all gunned down by police themselves, but 14 defendants are currently on trial facing life in prison for ‘complicity in terrorism’.
Friday’s attack took place close to the old Charlie Hebdo offices, which were attacked by Paris-born brothers Said and Cherif Kouachi in 2015.
An armed police officer stands at the scene of the horrific stabbings as two fight for their lives after the attack
A large police presence was seen immediately after the stabbings as schools and the Metro were shut down
Two of the victims have been confirmed as a man and a women who are employees of Premieres Lignes, a French news and video agency
It marked the opening of the criminal trial by re-publishing cartoons mocking the Prophet Mohammed.
Critics said the publication had deliberately used blasphemy to stir up hatred against Muslims around the world.
The deeply incendiary images originally led to riots across the Muslim world when they were first published in the Danish daily Jyllands-Posten on September 30, 2005.
Charlie Hebdo then published them in full in 2006, leading its writers and cartoonists to receive regular death threats.
This led up to the atrocities of 2015, when the Kouachis stormed into their offices and opened fire.
Police and emergency vehicles are pictured at the scene after the gun rampage at the Charlie Hebdo offices in 2015 which left 12 people dead
Despite this, the latest Charlie Hebdo carries the cartoons on its front page, under the headline ‘All that for that’.
The landmark trial has seen defendants facing a variety of charges including obtaining weapons and providing logistical support to the killers.
Three of the accused are being tried in absentia, as it is believed they went to fight for Islamic State in Syria.
The Kouachi brothers died during a shootout with police at a printing office northwest of Paris two days after the Charlie Hebdo attack.
Those currently on trial range in age from 29 to 68, and are charged with providing logistics to the terrorists, including cash, weapons and vehicles.
The Kouachi brothers, Cherif (left) and Said (right), entered Charlie Hebdo’s premises and carried out the brutal attack five years ago
Among three defendants being tried in their absence is Hayat Boumeddienne, 32, who is known as ‘France’s Most Wanted Woman’ .
She is also said to have provided logistical support to the three Islamist killers, one of whom was her boyfriend, 32-year-old Amédy.
Coulibaly gunned down four shoppers in a kosher supermarket and a policewoman during the three days of carnage.
Boumeddienne, a self-styled ISIS fanatic, is still on the run, and was last said to have been spotted in a Syrian refugee camp last year.
This court sketch shows the fourteen accused and their lawyers at the opening of the trial of the accomplices in jihadist killings in 2015
‘A warrant is out for her arrest,’ said a prosecuting source. ‘It has been claimed that she is dead, but intelligence placed her in the town of Al-Hawl in the summer of 2019.
‘The camp is made up of thousands of women and children, including many dislodged from the ISIS caliphate.’
Boumeddienne’s DNA was found on guns being stored by Coulibaly, while prosecutors say she also made more than 500 phone calls to the home of Cherif Kouachi in the run-up to the attacks.
She gave an interview to an ISIS propaganda outlet in late 2015, saying: ‘May France be cursed by Allah’.
Two other key defendants in the Paris trial are Mohamed and Mehdi Belhoucine –brothers who left for the Iraqi-Syrian war zone shortly after the Hebdo attacks, and who are now presumed dead.
A message of solidarity with Charlie Hebdo – containing the popular slogan ‘je suis Charlie’ (meaning ‘I am Charlie’) – is laid out in Paris after the attack in 2015
Both ISIS and Al-Qaeda claimed responsibility for the 2015 attacks, which were the beginning of a wave of terrorism across France.
Another defendant is Willy Prévost, a close friend of Coulibaly, who is said to have provided vehicles including a car.
The others on trial are Nezar Mickael, Pastor Alwatik, Amar Ramdan, Said Makhlouf, Mohamed-Amine Fares, Michel Catino, Abdelaziz Abbad, Miguel Martinez and Metin Karasular.
All are accused of providing varying levels of support to the Kouachi brothers and Coulibaly.
The trial is being presided over by five specialised terrorism magistrates, headed by Judge Régis de Jorna.
The entire process will be filmed so that a record can be placed in France’s National Archive, but the images will not be broadcast live.