Notre Dame terror attacker was given an EU prize

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The hammer-wielding terrorist who attacked police outside the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris was handed an award by the European Union for writing about racism against migrants.

Farid Ikken, 40, emerged from a crowd of tourists on Tuesday afternoon and swinging his weapon at three police officers.

The Algerian took one of the officers to the ground while shouting ‘this is for Syria’ before police drew their weapons and shot two bullets at him.

Ikken, who was carrying kitchen knives, a hammer and other unsophisticated weapons, was injured in the attack and was taken to hospital.

Now it has emerged that he had worked as a reporter in Sweden – and received the EU’s ‘National Journalist Prize Against Discrimination’.

He was given the accolade by officials in Brussels after writing an article about asylum seekers ‘who are not entitled to medical care and who are therefore forced to seek shelter’.

It also included details of ‘healthcare staff and others who still provide healthcare to asylum seekers’ in defiance of rules prohibiting them to do so.

After winning the prize in 2009, Ikken said: ‘it has been gratifying that attention has been paid to such important topics as discrimination and diversity.’

Following yesterday’s attack anti-terrorist police who raided Ikken’s flat in the Paris suburb of Cergy-Pontoise found a video of him pledging his allegiance to Islamic State.

French Interior Minister Gerard Collomb said the attacker cried ‘it’s for Syria’ as he went after officers patrolling an esplanade in front of the famous landmark which was put on lockdown and was being guarded by soldiers overnight.

After Ikken was shot, he is said to have claimed to be a soldier of Islamic State.

He had no criminal record, but had regularly expressed his interest in jihad on the Internet, and had covered terrorism while working for various news outlets in his native Algeria.

Describing his work at the Bejaia-today site, Ikken wrote on his Linkedin profile: ‘I headed up a small team composed of two permanent journalists, two freelancers and a translator for two years.

‘My main task was to ensure that the content of our website was updated continuously, and to edit material sent by correspondents or written by journalists.’

He added: ‘The processing of press releases, the call to civil protection services, hospitals, public institutions and institutions, the translation of Arabic and English content and the correction of texts were also part of my duties.

‘I also assisted in the writing of news articles and the editorial regularly.’

Yesterday ISIS released a statement said to be from what it called its Commander of The Believers in France to the crossed (Christians) French people.

It read: ‘O’ people of France, demand of your government to stop its campaign against the Islamic State, if not, we will conduct operations of invasion and horror as you have lived in the cities of Paris and Nice.

‘May peace be upon those who follow the guided message.

‘Soldiers of the Islamic State in France.’

He is currently enrolled as a doctoral student specialising in communication at Metz university, in eastern France.

Arnaud Mercier, his current PhD supervisor, told France’s LCI news channel: ‘From what I know of his personality, though we haven’t been in contact for a while, this leaves me completely stupefied.

‘He was very dedicated, he acknowledged the values of democracy, he believed very much in journalistic ideals.’

Referring to the current period of Ramadan when Muslims fast, Mr Mercier said: ‘He didn’t have a beard, or observe Ramadan.

‘The only thing I noticed is that he didn’t drink alcohol, but there are many Muslims who don’t drink and they’re not dangerous jihadists.’

French Interior Minister Gerard Collomb confirmed that Ikken shouted ‘this is for Syria’ as he struck the police officer.

Collomb said on Tuesday Ikken ‘was in hospital’ but had no further details of his condition – adding that the injured attacker seemed to have acted alone.

One officer suffered ‘a cut on the chin’ but was otherwise unhurt, and Ikken was shot in the chest, according to one source.

Footage seen on social media showed the assailant lying on the ground after being shot.

Police had earlier said they were dealing with an incident in the courtyard outside the world-famous tourist site amid reports of panic and gunshots in the area.

Officials warned people to stay away from the area after saying there was an ‘incident’ at the popular tourist destination which was locked down with 900 people inside.

By 5.30pm local time, an hour after the attack, people inside the cathedral were being let out of the building.

Following the attack, a large number of police cars filled the area on the Ile de Cite island in the River Seine in the center of Paris.

France remains on high alert after a series of deadly terror attacks in recent years.

In April, traffic officer Xavier Jugele was shot dead while on duty on the Champs Elysees just days before the French presidential election.

ISIS claimed the killing by 39-year-old Karim Cheurfi who was shot dead by police in a gun battle. Two other officers were injured in the attack.

A month earlier a convicted criminal with links to radical Islam shouted ‘I am here to die for Allah, there will be deaths’ seconds before he was shot dead during an attack at Paris Orly airport.

Again ISIS claimed responsibility for the slaying, which was carried out by a jihadist with a prior terrorist conviction. He was killed by police on the scene.

The 39-year-old, named locally as career criminal Ziyed Ben Belgacem, was killed after wrestling a soldier’s gun from her and fleeing into a McDonald’s.

He sent a text message to his brother and father stating ‘I shot the police’ shortly before he was killed.

It followed the shooting in February of a man outside the Louvre museum in the heart of Paris after he attempted to storm the historic art gallery.

On July 14 last year amid Bastille Day celebrations in the Riviera city of Nice, a large truck was driven into a festive crowd killing 86 people.

The driver was shot dead. ISIS extremists claimed responsibility for the attack.

Just 12 days later two ISIS fanatics stormed into a church in Normandy and slit the throat of a priest as he was celebrating mass.

A month earlier, two French police officers were murdered in their Paris home in front of their three-year-old son.

Again ISIS claimed responsibility for the slaying, which was carried out by a jihadist with a prior terrorist conviction. He was killed by police on the scene.

The killings came after a massacre in the French capital in November 2015 in which ISIS militants went on the rampage murdering 130 people.

They used machine guns to slaughter revellers at the Bataclan music hall and in bars and restaurants in some of the city’s most popular night spots. A suicide bomber also targeted to Stade de France stadium.

The atrocity led to the declaration of a state of emergency in France.

In January the same year, two brothers killed 11 people inside the Paris building where the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo is headquartered in what ISIS claimed was retaliation for the publication of cartoons about the Prophet Muhammad.

More were killed subsequently in attacks on a kosher market in eastern Paris and on police. There were 17 victims in all, including two police officers. The attackers are killed.