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November 21, 2013

Police Identify Paris Gunman, but Many Mysteries Remain

by Lisa Bryant

French authorities have identified 48-year-old Abdelhakim Dekhar as the gunman behind Paris-area shootings this week, after arresting him in a car park near the capital. They say the DNA of Dekhar - who was an accomplice in 1990s-era shootings - matched samples taken at scenes of these latest attacks that have shaken and mystified France.

They know his name and at least some of his history. But for French authorities, many questions still surround Abdelhakim Dekhar, the man they believe is responsible for this week's Paris-area shooting spree.

At a news conference Thursday, Paris prosecutor Francois Molins described the contents of an undated letter in which Dekhar denounces capitalism and a so-called fascist plot by the media.

Molins said video surveillance footage and witness testimonies proved key in tracking him down. Police arrested Dekhar  the night before at a car park north of the capital. French Interior Minister Manuel Valls says he may have taken a drug overdose, in a possible suicide attempt.

Valls told RTL radio it is now up to France's justice system to establish both the facts and motivations behind Dekhar's acts.
 
Those may be tied to a murky past. French authorities say Dekhar was jailed in 1998 for his role in a string of notorious shootings by leftist extremists that killed three police officers and a taxi driver. He apparently left France after serving his term and Valls says he only returned here fairly recently.
 
Dekhar's former lawyer, Emmanuelle Hauser-Phelizon, told French radio that he was mystified by the shootings.  During his 1990's trial, Dekhar was described by psychologists as "mentally fragile." But his lawyer said Dekhar was calm and thoughtful when he knew him. To have nursed a rage for so many years was incredible.
 
​​​On Monday, a man police now identify as Dekhar opened fire at the leftist Liberation newspaper in Paris, seriously wounding a 23-year-old photographer's assistant. Shortly after, the same man fired shots outside the headquarters of Societe Generale in La Defense business district. He then hijacked a car that dropped him off at the Champs Elysees - where he disappeared. The same man also attacked an editor last week at France's BFM television station.
 
Authorities say police who arrested Dekhar had been tipped off by a friend who sheltered him. So far, it appears he acted alone.