France - Terrorism

France pays tribute to police official killed in knife attack

French Prime Minister Jean Castex delivers a speech near the portrait of murdered Stephanie Monfermé, a mother and local police employee, during a remembrance gathering, in Rambouillet near Paris, France April 30, 2021.
French Prime Minister Jean Castex delivers a speech near the portrait of murdered Stephanie Monfermé, a mother and local police employee, during a remembrance gathering, in Rambouillet near Paris, France April 30, 2021. REUTERS - POOL

France has held a national ceremony Friday in honor of a police official who was stabbed to death in what authorities say was an Islamist extremist attack.

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The attack stunned the town of Rambouillet, southwest of Paris, where the police official was killed a week ago, and where Prime Minister Jean Castex led Friday’s ceremony alongside top government and police officials.

The victim, unarmed administrative employee Stephanie Monfermé, was stabbed as she returned to the station on 23 April after extending the time on her parking space. The suspected assailant was shot and killed by police at the scene.

Monfermé was awarded a Légion d'honneur posthumously, a title is reserved for public servants and military personnel who die in combat.  

"Stephanie was murdered because she represented the French police and the authority of the state. She was murdered because she served France," Castex said in his tribute.

"Islamist terrorism has declared war on us but it is a war led by cowards. Only a coward could attack a woman who, because of her job, did not carry a weapon," the prime minister added.

The ceremony concluded with a minute of silence and the national anthem La Marseillaise.

On Thursday, President Emmanuel Macron attended the private funeral organised by the victim's family in the village of Saint-Léger-en-Yvelines.

Attack prompted new anti-terrorism legislation

It was the latest of multiple attacks in recent years targeting French police. The national anti-terrorism prosecutor’s office took over the investigation of the stabbing, but has released only limited information about the assailant’s suspected links to extremism.

France's anti-terrorism prosecutor said the killing marked the "17th Islamist terrorist attack targeting security forces in France since 2014."

The chief prosecutor said that the Tunisian-born suspect, identified as Jamel G., had no criminal record or evidence of radicalization, and said investigators are trying to determine whether other people or groups helped or inspired him.

The prosecutor said the suspect had listened to religious songs inciting to “jihad” just before the attack, and witnesses heard him say “Allahu akbar," Arabic for “God is great,” during the attack.

French President Emmanuel Macron’s government has been increasing police powers amid voter concerns about security.

The French government presented a new law this week to toughen anti-terror measures, including increased use of computer algorithms to detect potential terror threats among internet users.

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