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World News

Paris knife attack suspect wanted to avenge Prophet cartoons - video

PARIS/ISLAMABAD (Reuters) - French police are studying a video in which the man suspected of attacking people with a meat cleaver on Friday says he will commit an act of “resistance” after the republication of cartoons mocking the Prophet Mohammad in a satirical magazine.

FILE PHOTO: A French police officer stands near the Opera Bastille where a suspect in a stabbing attack near the former offices of the magazine Charlie Hebdo was arrested in Paris, France September 25, 2020. REUTERS/Gonzalo Fuentes/File Photo

The suspect, who is from Pakistan, was arrested soon after two people were wounded in front of the old offices of the Charlie Hebdo magazine. Officials said his clothes were spattered in blood.

The video was found on the suspect’s mobile phone, French media reported. Reuters could not independently authenticate the video recording. A police source confirmed a video was being examined.

In the video, the suspect identifies himself as Zeheer Hassan Mehmood and says he came from Mandi Bahauddin in Punjab province. Starting to sob, he then recites poetry praising the Prophet Mohammad.

“If I’m sounding emotional, let me explain: here, in France, the caricatures of the Prophet Mohammad were made,” he says in Urdu. “I am going to do (an act of) resistance today, Sept. 25.”

Mehmood’s father praised his son.

“My heart is filled with happiness,” Arshad Mehmood told the online news site Naya Pakistan from the family home. “I can sacrifice all my five sons to protect the Prophet’s honour.”

“He called us ... and said that the God’s Prophet had chosen him, and assigned him to kill the blasphemers.”

The cartoons were first published by Charlie Hebdo in 2006 and spurred Islamist militants to target the magazine’s office in 2015 in an attack that left 12 people dead and was claimed by al Qaeda.

The weekly, which moved to a secret location after the attack, republished the cartoons earlier this month to mark the beginning of the trial of 14 people with alleged links to the Charlie Hebdo killers.

For Muslims, any depiction of the Prophet is blasphemous.

Wearing a long tunic, the suspect said he was spiritually guided by Ilyas Qadri. Qadri is a Sunni cleric and the founder of Dawat-e-Islami, a non-violent organisation spread across the globe.

Qadri says a person who commits blasphemy should be handed in to police, but if another individual were driven by their emotions to kill the blasphemer, the law should not apply.

Dawat-e-Islami did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Reporting by Richard Lough in Paris and Asif Shahzad in Islamabad; Editing by Giles Elgood

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