In a violent attack causing trepidation amongst Paris’ Jewish community, a 66-year-old Orthodox woman, Sarah Halimi, was murdered to the cry of ‘‘Allahu Akbar’’ early Tuesday morning, pushed from the window of her top-floor apartment in Paris’ 11th arrondissement.
The accused, a 27-year-old of Muslim origin known to police for a string of offenses, had broken into the apartment of his victim – reportedly scaling the exterior wall from the floor below where he lived with his parents – to stab his victim before throwing her to her death.
The lifeless body of Ms. Halimi was found on the ground beneath her apartment, having been pushed to her death from her third story window during the attack which took place at approximately 4:30 am.
Three armed police were on the scene prior to the murder, according to neighbors, who also reported hearing the cry of ‘’Allahu Akbar’’ at the moment of the crime. Unconfirmed reports circulating on social media also suggest that Ms. Halimi had previously been harassed by a relative of the accused and that she had been subjected to verbal abuse in the days leading up to the incident. Neighbors claim that the accused had been ”radicalized” and that police were waiting for an anti-terrorist unit to deal with the situation.
French media have been covering the event with limited reference to the background of either the victim or the accused, instead characterizing the crime as the act of an unhinged individual. Further details of the incident have been emerging in the local Jewish media, with the story now gaining traction in Israel.
Whilst the motives behind this crime are not yet 100% clear, it represents a growing phenomenon of criminal acts being preceded by cries of ‘‘Allahu Akbar’’ (‘’Our God is Greater’’) consistently explained by French media as the acts of ‘’déséquilibrés’’, the ‘’unbalanced’’ – a word fast entering the lexicon for such circumstances.
Examples of the phenomenon are manifold in the local press;
Wednesday morning, a man opened fire with a hunting rifle to cries of ‘’Allahu Akbar’’ in a shopping mall in suburban Nantes, in the west of the country, before being apprehended by police.
In the Mediterranean city of Nice last week, scene of a horrific attack on July 14th, 2016 leaving 86 dead, a 22-year-old Algerian attacked passers-by in the street and tried to hijack a vehicle, whilst crying the same maxim.
Meanwhile in Flavigny, in Eastern France, thirty police were involved in an incident where an 18-year-old dressed in black terrorized patients and staff of a home for the handicapped whilst screaming ‘Allahu Akbar.’ He was later arrested under a French law banning apology for terrorism.
Earlier in March, in the southern city of Avignon, a 28-year-old man caused panic whilst roaming the center of town screaming ‘’Allahu Akbar – I’m armed and I’m going to kill you all.’’ Local media put the incident down to intoxication.
In February, also in Avignon, a 23-year-old man raped a prostitute in broad daylight, taunting ‘’infidel’’ police afterward, threatening to ”send them to hell’ whilst incanting a prayer in Arabic and shouting the words ‘‘Allahu Akbar.’’
‘’I’m going to come back and kill you, I’m going to rape your wives, your daughters, then kill the whores!’’ the man, well known to police in Avignon, screamed during his arrest.
Whilst certain of these events can be put down to mental illness and intoxication, there is a worrying trend emerging, little reported outside of France; that of violent acts being committed by common criminals and amateur jihadists in the name of Islam with the battle cry of ”Allahu Akbar” being used to goad police and to strike fear into ordinary citizens. The resulting climate of insecurity is playing on nerves already jittery following a spate of terrorist attacks since 2015.
As the Paris investigation continues, we will be paying close attention to this fast developing story. A march and vigil are set to take place Sunday outside the address of the deceased to honor her memory and draw attention to the story.