Suspected Attacker in Death of French Cop Stalked Station Ahead of Stabbing

French anti-terrorism prosecutor Jean-Francois Ricard told reporters Friday that the statements made by the suspected assailant in a Friday stabbing of a police official suggest he staked out the police station in advance, the Associated Press reported.

Police shot and killed the suspect after he stabbed the official to death just outside the Paris station. French media identified the suspect as a Tunisian-born French citizen with no criminal background or indicators of radicalization.

While Ricard did not provide details on the attacker, his motives or suspicions of terrorism, national anti-terrorism prosecutors opened an investigation into the killing of a person of public authority in relation with a terrorist group. Witnesses said they heard the attackers say "Allahu akbar," an Arabic expression for "God is great," during the attack, according to a judicial official.

The police official was identified only as a 49-year-old administrative employee named Stephanie who worked for the national police service, according to AP. She was on her way back from extending time on her parking space when she was stabbed to death according to Valerie Pecresse, the region's president.

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below.

France attack
French police conduct a search at the house of a Tunisian man who allegedly stabbed to death a female police employee at a police station in Rambouillet, southwest of Paris, on April 23, 2021. PHILIPPE DUPEYRAT/AFP/Getty Images

The attack stunned the quiet residential neighborhood near the famed historic chateau of Rambouillet, and prompted renewed French government promises to fight extremism and protect police.

The judicial official was not authorized to be publicly named speaking about an ongoing investigation.

Police searched the attacker's home, also in Rambouillet, and detained three people in his entourage, according to the official.

French Prime Minister Jean Castex rushed to the scene with other officials and pledged the government's "determination to fight terrorism in all its forms." Islamic extremists and others have carried out multiple terror attacks in France recent years, including several targeting police.

"Police are symbols of the republic. They are France," Pecresse told reporters at the scene, adding: "The face of France" was targeted.

The attack took place southwest of Paris just inside the police station in the town of Rambouillet, about 750 meters (about 820 yards) from a former royal chateau that is sometimes used for international peace negotiations.

Security cordons ringed the area after the stabbing. Masked police employees clustered outside the station, while uniformed officers in bulletproof vests stood watch around the neighborhood.

"There is a sort of well-known signature on this attack, an attack with a knife, on the throat, against a woman police officer in a police building," Francois Bersani, a police union official at the scene, told AP.

The prime minister noted that the surrounding Yvelines region has seen two particularly brutal Islamic extremist attacks on public servants in recent years: last year's beheading of a teacher by a Chechen extremist, and the 2016 fatal stabbing of a police couple in their home by a Frenchman who claimed allegiance to the Islamic State group.

Friday's attack came as President Emmanuel Macron's government is toughening its security policies amid voter concerns about crime and complaints from police that they face increasing danger.

The shift comes as France prepares for regional elections in June in which security is a big issue, and for a presidential election next year in which Macron's main challenger could be far-right leader Marine Le Pen, if he seeks a second term.