A Pakistani had attacked the former offices of the Charlie Hebdo magazine last September. He has now revealed that was radicalized by videos of preachers in Pakistan. The anti-France demonstrations at the time also inspired him, he told police according to a report published on Wednesday.
The 26-year-old had spent days leading up to his knife attack allegedly watching preachers on YouTube and TikTok. They were denouncing France and Charlie Hebdo, Le Parisien newspaper reported, citing the police investigation.
“I couldn’t eat. I was crying watching the videos,” Zaheer Hassan Mahmood told investigators.
Weeks before, the magazine had republished cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed (PBUH). It marked the start of a trial of men linked to a 2015 attack on its offices. Prophet Mohammed (PBUH) cartoons are prohibited in Islam and are considered blasphemous by Muslims.
Mahmood said he did not realize the magazine had moved offices after the 2015 attack. He presumed the two people he slashed with a meat cleaver were employees of the publication, the paper said.
Both victims, who worked for a TV production company with no links to Charlie Hebdo, sustained serious injuries.
Who inspired Mahmood?
Mahmood is from the village of Kothli Qazi in Pakistan’s Punjab province. He had entered France with false papers showing him as an unaccompanied minor, enabling him to claim asylum.
Many groups organized demonstrations in Pakistan last September against Charlie Hebdo. Protests were also held against French President Emmanuel Macron who defended the cartoon. He also defended freedom of expression and blasphemy, which is legal in France.
Mahmood watched videos by Khadim Hussain Rizvi, the late founder of the Islamist Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) party, and other radical preachers. He was also influenced by Prime Minister Imran Khan, who accused Macron of “attacking Islam,” the paper said.
Blasphemy is a criminal act in Pakistan. Laws allow for the death penalty for anyone deemed to have insulted Islam or Islamic figures in the country.
Mahmood said he initially intended to damage the office building, rather than attack people. He has also offered to apologize to his victims.
Investigators have found a video he sent to a friend the day before his attack which called for the decapitation of blasphemers. He received a call from Greece the same day which appeared to refer to a premeditated assault.
He has been charged with “attempted murder with relation to a terrorist enterprise”.