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French police shot an unarmed woman wearing a burqa at a Paris train station on Tuesday after passengers reported that she was behaving in a threatening manner and shouting jihadi slogans.
The woman was hospitalized with a stomach wound and was in critical condition, according to Paris prosecutors investigating the incident.
France has been on the highest level of alert for terror attacks since mid-October when an assailant armed with a knife killed a teacher in the northern town of Arras and swore allegiance to the Islamic State in a video.
The government has warned that the war between Israel and Hamas could encourage radicalized individuals in France to carry out attacks. The authorities have also vowed to protect the country’s Jewish community, the largest in Europe, from a worrying increase in anti-Semitic incidents.
The incident on Tuesday began when two passengers on a commuter train called emergency services to report that a woman wearing a full-body veil was allegedly shouting “Allahu akbar” and “You’re all going to die” and threatening to detonate a bomb, said Laurent Nuñez, the police chief of the Paris region.
Police detained the woman at the Bibliothèque Nationale de France station in south-east Paris, ordering her to sit on the ground as they set a security perimeter and evacuated the station. But according to Nuñez, she later got up and advanced towards the officers, despite police orders for her to stop and to show her hands to prove she was not armed.
When she did not comply, two officers fired eight shots at her, prosecutors said.
No explosives or weapons were found at the scene.
“The officers faced a situation that could have been dangerous,” said Nuñez. “It is always easy in hindsight to judge, but when you consider the information that was given to police, this situation was very threatening.”
Nuñez said the woman’s identity had not yet been verified as she had no identification on her, but that at the hospital she had given a name corresponding to that of a person who in 2021 had made threats against police officers. At that time, the person had been interned in a psychiatric ward over mental health issues.
The Paris prosecutor said two investigations had been opened: one against the woman for allegedly threatening the police and advocating for terrorism, and the other into whether the police were justified in using their firearms.
A spate of bomb threats in recent weeks has set France on edge and forced the evacuations of airports, tourist attractions such as the Château de Versailles, and a Jewish school north of Paris.
On Tuesday, prosecutors separately opened an investigation into graffiti depicting the Star of David, a symbol of Israel and the Jewish faith, scrawled on roughly 60 buildings in the 14th arrondissement in the south of Paris.
Additional reporting by Sarah White