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Knife attack on Paris police HQ referred to French anti-terror prosecutor

Police officers watch as a firefighter truck exits Paris prefecture de police (police headquarters) on October 3, 2019 after four officers were killed in a knife attack. A knife-wielding man working at police headquarters in central Paris went on a rampage GEOFFROY VAN DER HASSELT / AFP

The investigation into a knife attack in which an IT staffer stabbed four colleagues to death at Paris police headquarters has been handed over to the anti-terrorist prosecutor's office.

Thursday's attack was initially handled by the Paris public prosecutor but now passes to the Parquet National Anti Terrorisme (PNAT) sources at both prosecutors' offices said.

Three men and a woman -- three police officers and an administrative worker -- died in a frenzied 30-minute attack with a ceramic kitchen knife that ended when the attacker was shot dead.

A fifth person was critically injured and was being treated in hospital after the deadliest attack on police in France in years, which sent shock waves through an embattled force already complaining of low morale.

Paris prosecutor Remy Heitz, who initially led the investigations, told reporters that a murder probe had been opened, emphasising that there they were at that stage not looking into any terrorist motive.

But on Friday, he transferred the case to the PNAT, that deals exclusively with terrorism.

The PNAT is relatively new but differs from other Paris-based tribunals that it exclusively deals with terrorism. It was created in July 2019 and is headed by Magistrate Jean-François Ricard.

IT worker

The attacker, a 45-year-old IT worker in the police intelligence department, had been questioned by his superior about why he had recently begun refusing to greet his female colleagues, according to sources. He converted to Islam 18 months ago.

The man, who was born in the French Caribbean territory of Martinique and had worked for the police since 2003, suffered from deafness, the sources said.