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Paris meat cleaver attacker charged with attempted terrorist killings

Suspect in attack near former Charlie Hebdo offices named as Pakistan-born Zaheer Hassan Mehmood, 25; he admits to initially lying about his identity

Anti-terrorism state prosecutor Jean-Francois Ricard wearing a face mask speaks during a press conference on September 29, 2020, after a man armed with a knife seriously wounded two people on September 25, 2020, in a suspected terror attack outside the former offices of French satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo in Paris. (Photo by STEPHANE DE SAKUTIN / AFP)
Anti-terrorism state prosecutor Jean-Francois Ricard wearing a face mask speaks during a press conference on September 29, 2020, after a man armed with a knife seriously wounded two people on September 25, 2020, in a suspected terror attack outside the former offices of French satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo in Paris. (Photo by STEPHANE DE SAKUTIN / AFP)

PARIS, France — A man who wounded two people in a meat cleaver attack in Paris last week has been charged with “attempted murder with relation to a terrorist enterprise,” French anti-terrorist prosecutors told AFP on Tuesday.

A judge also placed the man — who has identified himself as 25-year-old Pakistani-born Zaheer Hassan Mehmood — under judicial investigation for criminal association with terrorists, the prosecuting authority PNAT said, adding that a request had been made for him to be remanded in custody.

Earlier, the suspect admitted he lied to police when he said he was 18 and had entered the country as a minor, the lead prosecutor in the case said.

The assailant in what the French government has called an act of Islamist terrorism had initially identified himself as Hassan A., an 18-year-old born in the Pakistani town of Mandi Bahauddin. He entered France in 2018 under the false identity that gave him access to social security aid for minors, national anti-terror prosecutor Jean-Francois Ricard told a news conference.

After the attack last Friday, investigators became suspicious about his claims when they found a photo of an identity document on his phone that appeared to suggest he was actually called Zaheer Hassan Mehmood, aged 25.

“He eventually admitted that this was his true identity and that he was 25 years old,” Ricard said.

This grab taken from a video obtained by AFP shows French police detaining an alleged suspect after several people were injured near the former offices of the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo following an attack by a man wielding a knife in Paris on September 25, 2020 (Laura CAMBAUD / AFP)

It was under that identity that he appeared in a video filmed before the attack, in which he said he was avenging the publication of caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad by the satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo.

The magazine was the scene of a massacre by Islamist gunmen in January 2015, and the trial of 14 alleged accomplices in that attack is currently underway in Paris.

The attacker seriously wounded two employees of a TV production agency whose offices are on the same block that used to house Charlie Hebdo. They are now in stable condition, officials said.

He told investigators he thought he was targeting employees of Charlie Hebdo but did not realize they had since moved to a new location that is kept secret because of security risks.

Ricard said the attacker had never attracted the attention of any government intelligence agency before Friday’s assault.

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