By Emmanuel Jarry
Redouane Lakdim, the Islamist gunman who killed four people in southern France last week, had been summoned by the country’s domestic spy agency prior to the attack for an evaluation to see if he should remain on a government watch list, a source said
Moroccan-born Lakdim, who was shot dead by security forces as they stormed a supermarket where he was holding hostages, had been on the intelligence services’ official Fiche S watch list since 2014, prosecutor Francois Molins said on Monday. He was believed to have links to local Salafists, Molins said, but had shown no signs of preparing an attack.
Lakdim was sent a letter requiring him to fix a meeting with security agents at the local police headquarters in his hometown of Carcassonne, the source close to the investigation said on Tuesday.
It was the first time that security officials had decided to assess Lakdim face-to-face to determine whether he still posed a risk, RTL radio reported. No evidence has surfaced that the summons served as a catalyst for the attack.
The surveillance of Lakdim “was still in progress in March, 2018, and there had been no warning signs he was preparing an attack, nor that he had any ambitions to travel to the Iraqi-Syrian conflict zone“, Molins told a news conference on Monday.
On Friday morning, Lakdim held up a car in Carcassonne, wounding the driver and shooting dead his passenger. He then fired on a group of gendarmes jogging outside their barracks before seizing hostages at the supermarket in nearby Trebes.
The attack, the first since President Emmanuel Macron toughened security legislation and ended a two-year state of emergency in November, has left the intelligence services scrambling to see if any red flags were missed.
Molins said that notebook scribblings found in Lakdim’s house pointed to a man who wanted to pledge allegiance to Islamic State and was ready to die for the militant group
Some 26,000 individuals suspected of posing a security risk to France are on the Fiche S watch list, of whom about 10,000 are believed to have been radicalised, sometimes in Salafist mosques, online or abroad.
Lakdim was placed on the watch list because he was suspected of having ties with a person belonging to a Salafist network.
“He was not considered particularly dangerous,” another source familiar with the investigation into the attack told Reuters.
Some of Macron’s opponents have accused the 40-year-old president, a former investment banker, of being soft on security. Laurent Wauquiez, leader of the main opposition party, The Republicans, urged Macron to expel all foreigners on the watch list and detain all others.
Prime Minister Edouard Philippe on Tuesday said such measures would violate civil liberties.
“In France, no one should be deprived of their freedom because of suspicions,” Philippe told lawmakers.
(Reporting by Emmanuel Jarry; Additional reporting and writing by Richard Lough; Editing by Catherine Evans)