It is not only in the United States that some people want to kill policemen: such people exist in France, and no doubt elsewhere too. In a suburb of the city of Tours called Joué-lès-Tours, a 20 year-old man, Bertrand Nzohabonayo, born in Burundi and a recent convert to Islam (who thenceforth called himself Bilal), entered a police station Saturday and attacked three policemen with a knife. He nearly killed one of them by slashing him in the neck; he cut the tendons of the hand of another and the face of a third, after which a fourth shot him dead. According to the police, he was shouting “Allah akbar!” during the attack.
Nzohabonayo was reported by his associates to have been a calm and friendly man, who went quietly to the mosque for several years. After his conversion, he grew an Islamic-style beard with a shaved upper lip. He was also a fan of rap music and video games, and was an amateur wrestler. He was involved in petty crime and drug-trafficking. Trained as a central-heating boiler engineer, he did not much care for this work and it is likely that he was maintained at the expense of the French taxpayer to whom, however, he was probably not very grateful.
Monday, the left-leaning newspaper, Libération, carried the following headline: JOUÉ-LÈS-TOURS: “THIS AFFAIR HAS NOTHING RELIGIOUS ABOUT IT.” The story went on to say that those close to Nzohabonayo do not believe his motive was terrorism. According to the newspaper’s special correspondent, there is a rumour in the suburb that Nzoahabonayo did not go to the police station of his own accord with a plan of attack, but was taken there under arrest by the police, where he defended himself with his knife. And two people interviewed by the correspondent, called Samir and Nourdine, wondered why the fourth policeman had killed him rather than merely shoot him in the legs. For them, that was the most burning question about the affair.
Nzoahabonayo was not known previously to French secret police, but his brother, an Islamist thought to be dangerous, was. The brother had returned to Burundi, possibly as a staging-post to join the jihad in Syria. No man is his brother’s keeper, of course, but it is not easy to believe that the Islamism of one brother, and the attack on the police of the other, were entirely coincidental.
Furthermore, according to the other newspapers, Nzoahabonayo had posted a picture of himself on his Facebook page with a flag of the Islamic State, an organisation that has expressly encouraged Muslims in France to use knives against agents of the state. Why did Libération omit to mention this fact (assuming that it is a fact and the other newspapers are not lying or mistaken)? Its report mentioned the Facebook pages of several of those who knew the dead man and who doubted the official version of his death, so entries on Facebook are neither unknown to the newspaper nor accorded no significance by it. There is only one reason that I can think of: the newspaper wanted to give credence to those who claimed that this affair had “nothing religious about it.”