Attack on Paris, the (Algerian) hero mistaken for a terrorist

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FROM OUR CORRESPONDENT – “I thought they would treat me like a hero, and instead I ended up behind bars”, complains Youssef (fictional name), 33 years old Algerian immigrant, in France since 2011. A few minutes later the attack with the cleaver in front of the former headquarters of , Youssef was the second arrested, together with the Islamic terrorist, the 18-year-old Pakistani Ali Hassan, and for hours the police, the authorities and the media thought that the perpetrators of the attack were two. Instead there was only one culprit, and another man who took risks to try and stop him.

After his arrest, Youssef was released on Friday evening around midnight, without much ceremony. “Instead he must be presented as a hero because he behaved heroically,” says his lawyer Lucie Simon.

Friday morning around 11.40 Youssef was in the area of ​​boulevard Richard Lenoir, near the rue Nicolas Appert which was the scene of the 2015 massacre but has not hosted the Charlie Hebdo editorial staff since. “He was getting into the car when he heard the screams of a woman – reports the lawyer -. Then a man yelling “no!”. He saw someone walking away with a cleaver and then dropping it at the entrance to the metro, in front of Richard Lenoir station ».

Youssef doesn’t have the habit of turning away when something strange happens on the street, other times in the past he has intervened. On Friday he started running after Ali. “He went down the stairs of the metro, but the suspect was already on the other track, in the opposite direction – says the lawyer -. “You don’t move!” He shouted at him, as if he were a policeman. He joined him on the other side of the tunnel and asked him what he had done. But Ali Hassan threatened him with a utility knife. Then he got on the wagon, towards Bastille. Youssef then went to a policeman to show him where the terrorist had escaped. But then a series of misunderstandings began.

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There were officers who told their colleagues “leave him alone, he has nothing to do with it”, others who searched him. At first he was released, Youssef went home to get the documents and then go to the police station to testify. He really wanted to help. But in the meantime other agents were viewing the video surveillance footage, and they noticed him next to the terrorist. The police waited for him at home and took him back to the subway station to do some checks. At one point, a more determined officer than the others arrested him, blindfolded him and took him to custody. Algerian origins, in that context, probably didn’t help. Youssef ended up in his cell for the first time in his life. It took hours to convince investigators that not only was he not a second terrorist, but he had also helped in the manhunt that led to the arrest of the perpetrator.

Ali Hassan yesterday morning he claimed responsibility for the action, explaining that he wanted to hit Charlie Hebdo “because I can’t stand the caricatures of Mohammed.” The day before the attack, the 18-year-old had gone on a patrol in rue Nicolas Appert to prepare for the attack, convinced that the editorial office of Charlie Hebdo was still there. And when he brought the blows of the cleaver on the two boys of the Premières Lignes agency who were smoking a cigarette on the sidewalk, he actually thought he was punishing – albeit randomly – journalists of the satirical magazine who on September 1, on the eve of the trial. , republished the cartoons.

Attack in Paris near the former headquarters of Charlie Hebdo: several injured

The real headquarters today is as secret and protected as a military installation; but in front of the place that everyone knows, marked by a mural in memory of the victims, there was not even a policeman, despite the ongoing trial and the new threats formulated by Al Qaeda.


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