The man arrested after a knife attack on two people outside the former offices of the satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo told detectives he had been angered by its publication of cartoons mocking the prophet Muhammad, French media reported yesterday.

The suspect, believed to be an 18-year-old born in Pakistan, is thought to have arrived in France three years ago as an unaccompanied minor.

“He was not known to be radicalised,” the French interior minister, Gérard Darmanin, told France 2 television adding that the man was not on the country’s security alert list.

“He arrived in France three years ago as a lone minor. We are currently verifying his age,” Darmanin added. “Clearly it was an act of terrorism.”

Anti-terrorist police have opened an inquiry for “attempted murder as part of a terrorist organisation”. The investigation is being carried out by Paris police and the French security services.

The attack took place in the 11th arrondissement on Friday, outside the former offices of Charlie Hebdo where terrorist gunmen, brothers Saïd and Chérif Kouachi, killed 12 people in January 2015, in retaliation for the newspaper publishing cartoons of the prophet.

In the latest attack, a man carrying a large knife slashed the head of a 28-year-old woman before injuring a 32-year-old man in the face and neck. The victims were on the street smoking at the time and were taken to hospital with what the police said were serious but not life-threatening injuries.

The suspect was arrested about an hour later outside the Paris Opéra at Bastille. Photographs leaked to the French media showed a man in grey sweatpants, a fluorescent green T-shirt and red trainers being handcuffed by police. A second man arrested near the scene of the attack was released. Police said they had taken six other men, aged 24 to 37, who were in the main suspect’s “entourage”, into custody for questioning.

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Le Parisien reported that the suspected attacker was living in Pantin, in the northern Paris suburb of Seine-Saint-Denis. The newspaper said the authorities had legally challenged the age on his identity papers, which stated he was born in August 2002, believing he was older, but a magistrate refused their request for a bone test.

The trial of 14 people suspected of helping gunmen carry out the attacks on Charlie Hebdo and the Hypercacher kosher supermarket, and killing a policewoman in 2015, is expected to continue until November.

Darmanin admitted the authorities had underestimated the risk in the area of the former offices of Charlie Hebdo. The newspaper, which republished the contested caricatures to mark the start of the trial, left its offices in the 11th arrondissement four years ago.



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