Loretto Academy students visited Notre Dame as terrorist attack unfolded

Pot'Vin-Gorman said she heard three gunshots before seeing the attacker, dressed in a blue jacket and blue jeans, lying on the ground about 30 meters (100 feet) outside the cathedral.

Algerian journalist Kamal Ouhnia, a friend who said he previously worked alongside Ikken on reporting assignments, described him as a bon vivant and a lover of fine wine.

Arnaud Mercier, Ikken's thesis adviser, told France's BFM-TV the assailant speaks Swedish, Arabic and French and that the graduate student's resume says he has experience as a journalist in Sweden and Algeria.

One officer suffered minor injuries.

The 40-year-old man, who was shot and wounded by police after lunging at the officer, had shouted that he was "a soldier of the caliphate" during the attack on Tuesday and that he was acting in revenge "for Syria".

The man who attacked police officers patrolling in front of Notre Dame Cathedral, crying out "This is for Syria!", was a former journalist who was working on a doctoral thesis and had not been suspected of radicalization, according to university officials and the French government's spokesman.

Footage of the man expressing his allegiance to the extremist group was found during a police search of his flat in Cergy, a Paris suburb, on Wednesday. "Nothing odd had been detected", he said. "Nothing, absolutely nothing, foretold that one day he'd be a jihadi who'd want to kill a policeman in the name of I don't know what cause".

"I don't believe at all that he was radicalized", he said in a phone interview.

Ikken was awarded the "EU Commission's National Journalist Prize against Discrimination" for an article concerning racism against illegal immigrants in Sweden, according to a Swedish newspaper. Then, in 2011, Ikken returned to Algeria and opened a public-relations agency with an online newsletter.

The attack came as newly elected French President Emmanuel Macron is making good on a campaign promise to beef up counterterrorism efforts by creating a new unit to improve intelligence-sharing.

Mercier said he last saw Ikken in June 2016, and was surprised when his student failed to reply to his message in November saying they needed to arrange a meeting.

More than 230 people have been killed in a wave of attacks in France either claimed by or inspired by the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) over the past 21/2 years. The story has been corrected to remove reference to the attacker being shot to death.

  • Jon Douglas