Ambiguous information: the reconstruction of the Colombes terror attack

On April 27th 2020 a black Bmw Class 1 driven by 29 years-old French citizen Youssef Tihlah rammed against two police motor-bikers while they were checking a Peugeot 508 on Boulevard de Valmy near the intersection with Avenue Clementine (a small dead-end road) in Paris commune of Colombes . The two agents were seriously injured as one of their motorbikes was smashed against the police car behind and the other one was bounced in the middle of the street.

The attacker stated to have conducted the terror attack in the name of Isis after seeing a video on Palestine and that he wanted to die after killing police agents. The police found a knife in the glove compartment of his vehicle and a letter slipped into the sun visor where the author indicates his Islamist motivation.[1] [2]

Youssef Tihlah is accused of “Attempted assassinations of persons holding public authority in connection with a terrorist enterprise” since, according to sources, the attacker was animated by an “anti-Western ideology”.[3] [4]

Tihlah was not known by authorities as a radicalized individual but he as known by friends and relatives as a pro-Palestinian.[5]

As reported by Le Figaro, Youssef Tihlah displayed behavioral problems, at least according to a medical file that was provided to the investigators; however, a psychiatric examination conducted Tuesday morning concluded that there was no absence or alteration of judgment on behalf of the attacker. Further investigations have indicated that Youssef Tihlah turned out to be extremely political, with a strong knowledge of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and with a strong interest in Mali, Somalia and other areas where French forces have conducted anti-jihadist operations.[6]

The confusing reconstructions

While the dynamics of the ramming that severely injured the two officers are quite clear, it is not possible to say the same about what occurred before the attack. In fact, reconstructions available throughout the media point out how there is an interesting chronology that must be taken into account, so let’s start from the beginning.[7]

Sometime earlier in the afternoon (no specific time has been indicated), an individual riding a T-Max scooter was being chased by the police on A86 autoruote, no more than 300 meters away from the site where the ramming occurred.

At a certain point the T-Max rider abandoned the vehicle and jumped inside a black Peugeot 508 with a driver waiting inside. As the car took off, it was immediately reported to other police patrols. At this point it becomes unclear if a proper chase took place, or if the car was spotted sometime later in the afternoon and that is due to the lack of information regarding the time of the initial chase with the T-Max. However, the same Peugeot was then spotted at the intersection between Boulevard de Valmy and Avenue Clementine, where the attack took place. The heavy presence of police at the site (4 motorbikes and two cars according to witnesses) and the proximity to A86 make the chase very plausible.

In any case, approximately after ten minutes (according to witnesses), while the police officers were conducting the check on the Peugeot, the black Bmw driven by Tihlah jumped into the scene and rams against the police.

One element that makes the whole picture further unclear is the fact that the driver of the Peugeot, a 23 years-old with previous convictions for narcotics, was found alone on board. The presence in the car of a second individual was later confirmed when a 22 years-old spontaneously turned himself in to the police. However, it is still not clear if he is the same man who was driving the T-Max.

Photo 1
Photo 2

Photos taken from the scene of the attack show a first moment when the passenger door is found open and a second image with the door closed, taken later as police and medics reached the secen. Who initially opened the door? Was it the driver in order to get off the car? If yes, Why? Or was there another passenger that quickly got off the car, leaving it open?

One witness who saw the whole scene from the window of his flat claimed that the Peugeot initially tried to turn right, but it had to stop as the road shows a dead-end signal; at that point a young individual got off the car and rushed away. The police immediately reached the car and after approximately 10 minutes, while the agents were checking vehicle and driver, the Bmw rammed into the officers.

According to the latest news, the two individuals are not being investigated for the terror attack perpetrated by Tihlah, which means that the authorities do not believe that the ramming was the last phase of a coordinated attack in order to attract agents into a trap. [8] [9] Authorities have not released the identities of the two.


[1] https://www.lefigaro.fr/actualite-france/attaque-de-colombes-la-piste-terroriste-privilegiee-20200428

[2] https://www.lci.fr/police/colombes-hauts-de-seine-ce-que-l-on-sait-de-l-homme-qui-a-fonce-sur-deux-policiers-pour-les-tuer-2152261.html

[3] https://www.valeursactuelles.com/societe/policiers-percutes-colombes-le-suspect-mis-en-examen-et-ecroue-118717

[4] https://www.i24news.tv/fr/actu/international/europe/1588345533-france-attaque-a-colombes-l-attaquant-a-la-voiture-mis-en-examen-et-ecroue-parquet-antiterroriste

[5] https://www.lefigaro.fr/actualite-france/attaque-de-colombes-la-piste-terroriste-privilegiee-20200428

[6] http://www.leparisien.fr/faits-divers/terrorisme-les-explications-glacantes-de-l-assaillant-de-colombes-01-05-2020-8309067.php

[7] https://www.bfmtv.com/mediaplayer/video/colombes-deux-hommes-places-en-garde-a-vue-1243367.html

[8] http://www.leparisien.fr/hauts-de-seine-92/impliques-malgre-eux-dans-l-attaque-de-colombes-deux-fuyards-entre-les-mains-de-la-justice-28-04-2020-8307678.php

[9] https://www.bfmtv.com/mediaplayer/video/colombes-deux-hommes-places-en-garde-a-vue-1243367.html

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