An in-depth analysis of the May 28th terror attack in Nantes

Summary of the attack

On Friday morning May 28th, in the Nantes northern area of La Chappelle-sur-Erdre, 39-year-old French/Senegalese Ndiaga Dieye (pictured above) attacked with a knife and wounded police officer Katell Lereec (46), he then stole her handgun and fled. During the escape, the attacker also assaulted a woman. The French police and special units quickly reached the scene and detected the individual who shot at the officers. In the exchange of fire, three law enforcers were injured while the attacker was seriously wounded and died of cardiac arrest.

Main phases of the attack

  • Dieye approaches officer Leerec armed with a knife and stabs her, causing multiple injuries to the legs, arms, and hands. He then takes possession of her handgun;
  • The attacker flees with a car, crashes, and forces his way into a building, taking refuge inside an apartment and holding a woman hostage for over two hours;
  • At approximately 1 pm Dieye steps into the balcony of the captive woman’s apartment and shoots against police officers and special units that had surrounded the building;
  • At this point, the attacker exits the building and tries fleeing through a field from where he fires once again against the police. In the exchange of fire, Dieye is wounded to the stomach and dies shortly after due to cardiac arrest.

Features of the attacker

  • Dieye had 19 previous convictions for armed robbery, kidnapping, voluntary violence, and spent almost half of his life behind bars (his first entry into prison was at age 17);
  • In 2016, Dieye was diagnosed with schizophrenia. Witnesses claim that he often spoke to himself and heard voices;
  • He was known as a heavy drug user;
  • While serving time, Dieye was placed on FSPRT (fichier des signalements pour la prévention de la radicalisation à caractère terroriste) list, as he was caught on several occasion divulging Islamist propaganda among prison mates;
  • Dieye was not classified as “Fiche S”, the indicator used by French law enforcement to flag an individual considered to be a serious threat to national security (the insertion into Fiche S is not automatic).
  • Dieye finished serving his most recent jail sentence on March 22, following an eight-year sentence; he had found work and housing due to an integration association in La Chapelle-sur-Erdre.

A few thoughts

Since January 1st, 2021, France has been a target of Islamist terrorism three times: on March 5th, when 60-year-old Jahid Medjadi attacked Jewish “Yavne” school in Marseille and a nearby kosher store (7 injured, attacker apprehended). On April 23rd, when 36-year-old Tunisian citizen Jamel Gorchene stabbed and killed a 49-year-old police administration employee at the entrance of Rambouillet’s police station, before being gunned down. The latest attack, on May 28th in La Chappelle-sur-Edre, as previously exposed. Three attacks in five months, all perpetrated by solitary attackers (not structurally related to any official terrorist organization) who acted on their own initiative.

In all three cases, the attacks appear as previously planned, even if largely improvised. In Marseille the attacker had previously chosen his target, the Jewish school, and the store, and was armed with a 20cm-long knife (definitely not something to leave the house in normal conditions).

In both, the Rambouillet attack, and the one that occurred in La Chappelle-sur-Erdre, the target was clear and obvious: the police.

All three attackers appear as self-radicalized through various means that vary from the internet to paper archive, and even personal interaction.

In all three cases, the terrorists used an object of common use (a knife) and personally chose the target to hit; this fits within the new modus operandi encouraged by jihadist organizations such as al-Qaeda and Isis, which aims at striking any type of target (mostly soft or semi-soft targets) through the use of any possible tool: a car, a knife, a screwdriver, a stolen gun, anything available.

France is currently a top target of Islamist extremism and jihadism due to several reasons:

  • The military campaign in the Sahel against jihadist groups active in the area;
  • The government’s recent positions against the presence of political Islam (also cited by President Macron as “Islamist separatism”) in the Country;
  • France’s foreign policy positions against Turkey, and specifically against Islamist political leader and Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan;
  • Charlie Hebdo’s satirical cartoons mocking Muslim prophet Muhammad and Turkish leader Erdogan.

It is plausible that in the upcoming months more terror attacks will take place in France, as a consequence of emulation (individuals taking inspiration from previous attacks). The French internal intelligence is working hard and effectively in preventing potential attacks; however, it is extremely difficult to avert every single case.

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