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France names suspect in Paris shootings, says DNA is a match


French Interior Minister Manuel Valls (L) and Christian Flaesch, director of the Paris judiciary police, attend a news conference at the headquarters of the Paris police November 21, 2013. French police have arrested Abdelhakim Dekhar, a man suspected of shooting and seriously wounding an employee of the left-wing Paris newspaper Liberation and firing a shotgun at the headquarters of a major bank, Valls said on Thursday. Photo - Reuters

Paris: France on Thursday named a man arrested over dramatic shootings in Paris this week as Abdelhakim Dekhar, previously jailed for his role in a "Bonnie-and-Clyde" style multiple murder, and said his DNA matched samples from the scene of the attacks.

The suspect was arrested on Wednesday after a major manhunt following Monday's shooting at left-wing newspaper Liberation, which critically wounded a photographer, and a subsequent shooting outside the offices of bank Societe Generale.

France's interior minister Manuel Valls identified him as Dekhar, who served four years in jail for his role in a "Bonnie-and-Clyde" style multiple homicide that gripped France in the 1990s.

In a late-night press conference the minister praised police for their handling of Dekhar's arrest, saying that "all the evidence today points to his involvement in the events that he has been charged with".

Dekhar, who is in his late 40s, was convicted in 1998 of buying a gun used in an October 1994 shooting attack by student Florence Rey and her lover Audry Maupin, in which three policemen and a taxi driver were killed.

He was arrested around 7pm (1800 GMT) in a vehicle in an underground parking lot in the northwestern Paris suburb of Bois-Colombes, after apparently trying to commit suicide.

Valls said that "everything appears to point to a suicide attempt", and sources told AFP Dekhar was semi-conscious when he was found.

The head of the Paris criminal police department Christian Flaesch said he was in custody in a "medical environment" and was not in a fit state to speak to investigators.

Police tested Dekhar's DNA against samples taken at the sites of the various attacks, announcing early Thursday that the samples matched.

Earlier DNA tests confirmed that a single person was responsible for the series of attacks across Paris in the last week, including hijacking a car on the famed Champs Elysees and threatening staff at a 24-hour television station.

The motive for the shootings remains unclear. Valls said investigators would need more information about the suspect's past to be able to "understand his motivation".

The arrest came after a witness statement to police, who had on Tuesday released a new photograph of the man suspected in the attacks and received hundreds of calls from potential witnesses.

A source close to the investigation said the witness who came forward had been a man who had housed the suspect.

"He had said to him, talking about the shooter case: 'I've made a stupid mistake'," the source said.

The man opened fire with a 12-gauge shotgun at the offices of Liberation early on Monday, shooting a 23-year-old photographer's assistant as he hauled gear in the lobby, then firing another blast that hit the roof before leaving within seconds.

He then crossed the city to the La Defense business district on its western edge, where he fired several shots outside the main office of the Societe Generale bank, hitting no one.

He hijacked a car and forced the driver to drop him off close to the Champs Elysees in the centre of the French capital, before disappearing.

Police say he was the same man who on Friday stormed into the Paris headquarters of a 24-hour TV news channel, BFMTV, briefly threatening staff with a gun before hurrying out.

Dekhar was suspected of being the third man in the so-called Rey-Maupin affair, which caused a scandal in France, with investigators comparing the young couple to the infamous American outlaws Bonnie and Clyde.

Witnesses at the trial in 1998 described him as a mentor to the couple and accused him of exploiting their youth to manipulate them.

In the early 1990s he was known to hang out at squats that were used by left-wing radicals and were often under police surveillance.

Maupin died of injuries sustained during a shoot-out with police and Rey, a middle-class student hitherto unknown to the police, was tried and sentenced to 20 years in jail. She was released in 2009.

Dekhar was acquitted of armed assault but found guilty of procuring the weapon and sentenced to four years. He was released soon after, having already served his time in pre-trial detention.

Valls said that Dekhar had "probably gone abroad" for several years after serving his sentence and did not appear in official records for that period.

This week's attacks set off a major manhunt and raised concerns about violence against media outlets.

The photographer, who suffered wounds to the chest and stomach, was rushed to surgery and appeared to be in better condition on Wednesday.

Hospital officials said he had regained consciousness and was no longer in need of an artificial respirator.


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