Paris Attack Suspect Wanted to Target Charlie Hebdo With Arson

PARIS The man suspected of stabbing two people outside the former Paris office of Charlie Hebdo last week admitted to investigators that he wanted to set the building on fire, and he railed against cartoons of the prophet in a video found on his phone, but he did not pledge allegiance to any known terrorist group, French authorities said on Tuesday.

Jean-François Ricard, the top antiterrorism prosecutor, said at a news conference that the video showed the suspect, Zaher Hassan Mahmood, 25, weeping and denouncing the publication of cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad.

Mr. Ricard said Mr. Mahmood had told investigators that he had searched online for the address for Charlie Hebdo, the satirical newspaper whose office was attacked in January 2015, and scouted the area, but had not realized that they moved. He had initially planned to set the former newspaper’s offices on fire, Mr. Ricard said, adding that the police found several bottles of turpentine in his bag.

But Mr. Mahmood changed his mind when he saw two people smoking outside the building near a mural paying tribute to those killed in 2015, Mr. Ricard said. Thinking they were employees of the newspaper, he lunged at them with a meat cleaver. The extremely violent attack, caught on surveillance cameras, lasted only 20 seconds, Mr. Ricard said.

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