On Saturday evening, the assailant – allegedly a French national of Chechen origin – began stabbing passers-by near Place de l’Opera, a tourist hotspot with bars, restaurants and theatres. The attacker injured five people, killing one.
A man who worked in a restaurant in the area described a harrowing scene in which the perpetrator started stabbing a random woman. “I heard a woman screaming, she tried to seek shelter in our restaurant,” he told RT, adding that the victim tried to get inside, but instead of pulling the door, she started pushing it. “That is when he attacked her, right in front of our restaurant,” the man recalled. The woman’s friend then stepped in and helped her, otherwise the attacker would have continued the attack.
Another witness said he rushed to the scene to help an injured woman. “Someone was taking her pulse and talking to her. People dressed her wounds. From what I saw, she was stabbed in the leg,” he said. According to official information, two women, aged 54 and 26, were injured in the attack. It is not clear which of these victims were described by the two witnesses.
A local restaurant owner also shared his first-hand witness account of how the assailant, identified by France 2 channel as 20-year-old Khamzat Azimov, was neutralized by police. “The attacker came down this road with his hands covered in blood, holding a knife,”Oliver Woodhead said, pointing to the location.
Police officers approached the assailant and tasered him twice but it didn’t work, Woodhead recalled, adding that the perpetrator continued to move towards one of the officers. “There were two shots fired. He was shot dead,” he said. Customers in his restaurant were hiding under the tables at the time.
On Sunday, French Interior Minister Gerard Collomb said that all of those injured in the attack would survive. “I have just seen the person who was most seriously injured, she is better, she is saved,” he toldreporters.
The knife attacker was reportedly born in the Chechen Republic in 1997. In the 2000s, his family moved to France, where he eventually got citizenship in 2010, Le Point newspaper said. In 2016, he was reportedly placed on Fiche S, a watchlist used in France to flag individuals considered to pose a threat to national security. He was also registered in the File for the Prevention of Terrorist Radicalization (FSPRT). His nationality has yet to be officially confirmed by French authorities.
In the meantime, on Sunday, the Russian embassy in Paris requested information on the nationality of the attacker, Anna Shlychkova from the embassy’s press service told RT.
The attack was claimed by Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS), according to the group’s affiliated website Amaq. French authorities have not verified the organization’s claim.