These are shocking images. They allow to know more about the circumstances of the attack, on September 25, by a Pakistani Islamist of 25 years, of two employees of the First Lines news agency who smoked a cigarette in front of old address of Charlie Hebdo, in Paris. The building’s surveillance camera recorded the scene and was recovered by investigators from the anti-terrorism section of the Criminal Squad. We can clearly see the assailant in red sneakers, Zaheer Hassan Mahmoud, walk past the couple and turn around a few seconds later. He then pounces on them and hits them with his butcher’s foil – a kind of chopper. Outside the scope of the video, a woman passes by on a bicycle. The investigators have reconstructed the result: the man launches in vain in pursuit of him and loses his weapon in his race.
Questioned during his police custody on the reasons for his act, he explained that he wanted to protest against a new publication of the cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad. He believed that his two victims worked at the newspaper, which he was unaware of the move after the terrorist attack of January 2015. He had also made this previously unseen precision: in his passage, he had seen the couple smile. And this scene of happiness in that place had exasperated him.
The hypothesis of an isolated act
Under the direction of the General Directorate of Internal Security (DGSI), the investigators are continuing their investigations into possible complicity. To date, nothing contradicts the hypothesis of an isolated act. Five of Zaheer Hassan Mahmoud’s co-residents in Pantin who had been taken into police custody were exonerated. One of them, a minor, had been the recipient of the video recorded before the attack. A sixth, absent during the arrests, was arrested the next day and released from all responsibility.
Mahmoud claimed his proximity to two extremist Pakistani religious groups. One advocates the death penalty for perpetrators of blasphemy. After his custody, he was indicted for “attempted assassination in connection with a terrorist enterprise” and “criminal association of terrorist criminals”.