French prosecutor: Knife attack suspect in ‘psychotic state’

Reporters work near a subway station after an assailant stabbed one person to death and injured nine others, Saturday Aug.31, 2019 just outside a subway station in Villeurbanne, outside Lyon, central France. The reason for the attack is unclear. (AP Photo/Nicolas Vaux-Montagny)
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An Afghan man was in a “psychotic state” and on drugs during a stabbing in France that killed one person and injured eight others, but investigators haven’t found any terrorist ties, a regional prosecutor said Sunday.

A psychiatric evaluation of the man in custody for Saturday’s attack revealed he was experiencing “paranoid delirium,” prosecutor Nicolas Jacquet said.

The suspect reported he “heard voices” telling him to kill, according to Jacquet. A 19-year-old man died after being stabbed with a knife in the attack outside a subway station in the Lyon suburb of Villeurbanne.

Passers-by surrounded and apprehended the assailant before police arrived, according to the prosecutor. He thanked them.

“Their courageous, responsible intervention was decisive,” Jacquet told reporters.

A witness broadcaster BFMTV identified as Sofiane described trying to help people who were stabbed and rounding up others to go after the attacker.

The man from Afghanistan in custody has been living in a French center for asylum-seekers, and held a temporary French residency card, Jacquet said. The suspect was first recorded in France in 2009, and subsequently traveled to Britain, Italy, Germany and Norway before returning to France in 2017.

After the stabbings, the suspect gave “incoherent” accounts and three different dates of birth to police, Jacquet said. The man was not publicly named.

The suspect was not on any radicalism watch list, Jacquet said.

Officers searched the suspect’s residence as part of the investigation, and “nothing was found showing any kind of radicalization,” he said.

The suspect had no police record or record of psychiatric problems, the prosecutor said. He was found with two knives but no other weapons.

Two of the eight people injured remained hospitalized. French police initially said nine people had injuries but the prosecutor said the total was eight. The reason for the discrepancy was unclear.

Villeurbanne Mayor Jean-Paul Bret said the man held is the only person suspected of wielding the knife.

The mayor also called anti-migrant politicians “shameless” for seizing on the stabbings to push their views.

French far right leader Marine Le Pen tweeted after the attack that “lax migration policy” threatens France’s security.

The attack raised concerns because France remains on alert after a string of deadly Islamic extremist attacks.q