Suspect in Paris shootings linked to 1994 murder spree: police

21st November 2013, Comments 0 comments

The man arrested on Wednesday on suspicion of carrying out the recent shootings in Paris has been named as Abdelhakim Dekhar, who was jailed in 1998 for his role in a "Bonnie-and-Cyde" style murder spree, police sources said.

Paris police had been hunting a man suspected of Monday's shooting at left-wing newspaper Liberation -- which critically wounded a photographer -- a subsequent shooting outside the offices of bank Societe Generale and a carjacking that ended on the Avenue des Champs Elysees.

The suspect, bearing a "strong physical resemblance" to the gunman, was arrested around 7:00 pm (1800 GMT) in a vehicle in an underground parking lot in the northwestern Paris suburb of Bois-Colombes, the Paris prosecutors' office said.

Several sources close to the probe said the suspect was found in a semi-conscious state, with one saying this was "probably following the taking of medications, which may suggest an attempted suicide".

Police sources identified the suspect as Dekhar, who was sentenced to four years in jail for buying a gun used in the 1994 shooting attacks by student Florence Rey and her lover Audry Maupin in which three policemen and a taxi driver were killed, in a case that gripped France.

The parking lot where Dekhar was detained on Wednesday was under a residential building along a train track and the area was sealed off by police after the suspect's arrest, an AFP reporter at the scene said.

Police took DNA samples from the suspect and were to test them against samples taken at the sites of the various attacks, according to sources close to the investigation.

One source said the results of the tests were due between 1:00 am (0000 GMT) and 2:00 am (0100 GMT).

The arrest came after a witness statement to police, who had on Tuesday released a new photograph of the man suspected in the attacks and received hundreds of calls from potential witnesses.

Prosecutors said the suspect was not immediately in a position to be questioned, but provided no explanation.

The mayor of Bois-Colombes, Yves Revillon, told journalists at the scene that the suspect had been taken away in an ambulance.

Police sources said he had been taken to a Paris region hospital and was under medical care.

Police had earlier said that DNA tests confirmed that a single person was responsible for the series of attacks across Paris in the last week.

'I've made a stupid mistake'

A source close to the investigation said the witness who came forward had been a man who had housed the suspect.

"He had said to him, talking about the shooter case: 'I've made a stupid mistake'," the source said.

The man opened fire with a 12-gauge shotgun at the offices of Liberation early on Monday, shooting a 23-year-old photographer's assistant as he hauled gear in the lobby, then firing another blast that hit the roof before leaving within seconds.

He then crossed the city to the La Defense business district on its western edge, where he fired several shots outside the main office of the Societe Generale bank, hitting no one.

He then hijacked a car and forced the driver to drop him off close to the Champs Elysees in the centre of the French capital, before disappearing.

Police say he was the same man who on Friday stormed into the Paris headquarters of a 24-hour TV news channel, BFMTV, briefly threatening staff with a gun before hurrying out.

His attacks set off a major manhunt and raised concerns about violence against media outlets.

The photographer, who suffered wounds to the chest and stomach, was rushed to surgery and appeared to be in better condition on Wednesday.

Hospital officials said he had regained consciousness and was no longer in need of an artificial respirator.

The new photo of the suspect, taken by a surveillance camera, showed a white man, aged 35 to 45, with a round face and thin-framed glasses, wearing a red jacket and beige cap and carrying a black shoulder bag.

The motive for his attacks was not known.

Witnesses described the gunman as calm, precise and determined and experts said he was likely to have worked alone and been well-organised.

© 2013 AFP

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