PARIS (AP) — A knife-wielding attacker stabbed a senior police officer to death Monday evening outside his home in a distant suburb of Paris, officials said. The attacker and a female companion of the police commander were later found dead after police commandos stormed the home and rescued the couple's three-year-old son.
French officials said anti-terrorism prosecutors were investigating the attack. The Islamic State's Amaq news agency cited an unnamed "source" as saying an IS fighter carried out the attack, but the extremist jihadist group has not officially claimed responsibility.
The off-duty police commander was attacked outside his home in Magnanville, about 35 miles (55 kilometers) west of Paris, interior minister spokesman Pierre-Henry Brandet told reporters at the scene. The attacker then retreated indoors and elite police commandos laid siege to the residence, eventually storming it after a roughly three-hour standoff. Brandet said the woman, the commander's companion and a fellow police worker, was found dead, as was the attacker. The police couple's son was unharmed.
Although officials said the attacker was killed by police when they stormed the residence, it was unclear how the woman was killed.
"The toll is a heavy one," Brandet told reporters, his voice heavy with emotion. "This commander, this police officer was killed by the individual ... (and) we discovered the body of a woman. The assailant, the criminal was killed. Thankfully, a little boy was saved. He was in the house. He's safe and sound. He was saved by police officers."
The Paris prosecutor's office said early Tuesday that anti-terrorism investigators had been brought in to the case given the target, the method behind the attack, and what the attacker said to police during the ensuing standoff.
The office did not elaborate, but French media, some of them citing unnamed neighbors, reported that the attacker was heard shouting "Allahu Akbar" — Arabic for "God is Great" — during the attack.
French prosecutor Vincent Lesclous — who said he knew the slain police commander — told reporters that the boy was found "shocked but unharmed." He said the assailant's identity was unknown.
If the crime was in fact organized or inspired by IS, it would fit in with a long-established pattern of jihadist violence. France, like other countries in Europe, has seen a series of stabbings aimed at police officers or soldiers and carried out by Muslim radicals. IS has encouraged its supporters to stage such attacks.
Tensions have been particularly high since Islamic State extremists claimed responsibility for the Nov. 13 Paris attacks that killed 130 people.
In Paris, the Eiffel Tower was lit up Monday night in the colors of a rainbow to honor victims of Saturday's mass shooting at a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida, that killed at least 49 people. The gunman declared his allegiance to IS in phone calls to police, but his motives remain unclear.
French President Francois Hollande condemned what he described as an "odious act," saying that he would hold a meeting at his Elysee Palace office on Tuesday.
"Light will be shed on the circumstances of this abominable drama whose investigation, under the authority of justice, will determine the exact nature," Hollande said in a statement.