President François Hollande has convened crisis talks after a man convicted for terrorist offences and claiming allegiance to the Islamic State stabbed a French police commander to death in front of his house outside Paris, then killed his partner who also worked for the police.
The 42-year-old police commander was in plain clothes when he was stabbed to death as he arrived home at around 8.30pm on Monday night in a quiet residential area of Magnanville, north-west of Paris.
The attacker then entered the house and held hostage the commander’s partner – who also worked in the local police administration – and the couple’s three-year-old son.
Elite police squads rushed to the scene, sealed off the neighbourhood, cut electricity and negotiated with the attacker who told them he was a soldier for Isis and had sworn allegiance to the group.
Shortly afterwards loud detonations were heard as police stormed the house and killed the assailant. They found the woman dead and rescued the couple’s son alive.
The French interior minister, Bernard Cazeneuve, called it “an abject terrorist attack”.
The attacker was identified by Le Monde and RMC radio as Larossi Abballa, 25, who was known to police for radicalism and already had a terrorism conviction.
He had been sentenced to three years in prison, six months suspended, in 2013 for “criminal association in view to preparing terrorist attacks” over his role in a recruitment network of jihadists linked to Pakistan and Afghanistan.
The attacker lived alone in nearby Mantes-la-Jolie, where the woman worked in the local police station and where the police commander had previously worked before being posted to nearby Mureaux.
An investigation was launched by French anti-terrorist police just after officers stormed the house.
The police officer who died was named in the French media as Jean-Baptiste Salvaing, 42, described as an assistant chief in the nearby district of Les Mureaux. He was reported to have been wearing civilian clothes at the time.
Magnanville is about 35 miles north-west of the Paris CBD.
“The toll is a heavy one,” interior ministry spokesman Pierre-Henry Brandet told reporters at the scene. “This commander, this police officer was killed by the individual … [and] we discovered the body of a woman. The assailant, the criminal, was killed. Thankfully a little boy was saved. He was in the house. He’s safe and sound. He was saved by police officers.”
Islamic State appeared to claim the attack through its news agency. The Site Intelligence Group, a US-based monitor, cited the Isis-linked Amaq News Agency as saying on its Telegram channels shortly afer the attack: “Islamic State fighter kills deputy chief of the police station in the city of Les Mureaux and his wife with blade weapons near Paris.”
A prosecutor said the three-year-old boy was “in shock but unharmed” and receiving medical attention.
The prime minister, Manuel Valls, tweeted that “a couple of police officers had been savagely assassinated”. He added: “Refuse fear, fight terrorism.”
Hollande condemned what he described as an “odious act” and said “all light will be shed” on the case.
The interior minister, Bernard Cazeneuve, expressed his “infinite sadness” at the killings. He said in a statement: “The attacker was neutralised by Raid forces, who showed great composure and great professionalism and who saved the couple’s little boy. The inquiry opened by the justice authorities will establish the precise circumstances of this tragedy.”
The killing in France came a day after a gunman claiming to be acting in the name of Isis shot dead 49 people at a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida, in the worst mass shooting in US history.
At the same time, France is hosting the Euro 2016 football tournament under tight security. The country is still reeling from the November 2015 jihadist attacks in Paris that left 130 people dead.
Police officers were known to be potential target of jihadist terrorism in France, after two officers were killed in the attacks of January 2015. One officer, Ahmed Merabet, was shot dead by the French Kouachi brothers as they fled Charlie Hebdo magazine after opening fire on an editorial meeting.
Another police officer, Clarissa Jean-Philippe, was shot in the street the following day by their accomplice Amedy Coulibaly before he later took hostages at a Paris kosher supermarket, killing four.
Earlier this year police shot dead a man who tried to enter a Paris police station brandishing a butcher’s knife and wearing a fake suicide vest on the one-year anniversary of the Charlie Hebdo attack.