A man previously convicted as an accomplice in a notorious multiple killing has been arrested by French police on suspicion of being the gunman who shot and wounded a newspaper photographer’s assistant in a rampage through Paris on Monday.
In a bizarre twist to the mystery over the identity of the lone gunman, the person in custody was named by officials as Abdelhakim Dekhar, jailed in 1998 as an accomplice to a couple of young anarchists involved in a bloody clash with police that ended with the death of five people, including three policemen.
Police said DNA tests showed a match between Mr Dekhar and DNA recovered from spent cartridges used in the shootings on Monday.
Manuel Valls, the interior minister, praised police for their “terrific work” in tracking down Mr Dekhar after he disappeared in central Paris on Monday afternoon after allegedly attacking Libération, the leftwing newspaper, and opening fire on the headquarters of a top bank before hijacking a car.
“All the facts indicate his involvement in the events in which he is suspected,” Mr Valls said.
Mr Dekhar was found guilty of supplying a pump action shotgun to Florence Rey and her boyfriend Audry Maupin, whose attempt to steal weapons from a police depot in October 1994 turned into a movie-style car chase through Paris and shootout in which Maupin was among those killed.
Rey survived and was released in 2009 after serving 11 years of a 20-year sentence for her part in the affair. Mr Dekhar was freed shortly after the trial, having already served four years in pre-trial custody.
One of his lawyers said on Wednesday night that he had lived in the UK for much of the time since and had not been in trouble with the authorities.
There has been no indication of the motive for Monday’s attacks, which followed a similar incident at a television station last Friday carried out by the same person, although no shots were fired on that occasion.
In the attack on Libération, the photographer’s assistant was shot twice in the chest and abdomen in the newspaper lobby by a pump action shotgun before the gunman fled into the street.
About 90 minutes later, the attacker fired shots at the headquarters of Société Générale, the French bank, some miles away. No one was hurt. He then hijacked a car, forcing the driver to drop him at the Champs Elysées in the heart of the capital.
Police said they arrested Mr Dekhar in an underground car park in a northwestern Paris suburb on Wednesday evening. He was said to be semi-conscious, having swallowed a quantity of medicines, possibly in a suicide attempt. He offered no resistance, police said.
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