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Before at-tack, a Pakistani teen sought better life in France

KOTLI QAZI, Pakistan (AP) – Ali Hassan was solely 15 when he left Pakistan to be smuggled to Europe, following the trail of his older brother and plenty of different younger males from his house nation dreaming of a better life.

Nearly three years later, Hassan is immediately in a Paris ja-il after allegedly attacking and critically wounding two individuals with a meat cleaver. Before the Sept. 25 at-tack, he proclaimed in a video he was in search of vengeance after the French satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo printed caricatures of Islam’s Prophet Muhammad.

Little is understood about Hassan’s time in France. There has been confusion over his age, however The Associated Press obtained his official identification paperwork in Pakistan that confirmed he’s at the moment 18.

French authorities are investigating the Sept. 25 stabbings as an Islamic extremist at-tack. The stabbings echoed a January 2015 at-tack on the newspaper that kil-led 12 of its staffers by militants who claimed they have been appearing in the title of al-Qaida.

So far, there was no indication Hassan was linked to any ter-rorist group. Instead, the wrath of {the teenager} – removed from house in a world vastly completely different from any he knew – could have roots in Pakistan’s draconian blasphemy legal guidelines.

Hassan’s journey started in his house village of Kotli Qazi, deep in a rural space of Punjab province. The tiny village lies down a slim, rutted dust highway weaving by means of huge agricultural fields.

The small cement homes are crowded collectively, their partitions filled with dung patties baking in the blistering midday day solar. By sundown they’ll be peeled off the partitions and used to gasoline the night fires.

Many of the younger males, together with childhood pals of Hassan, mentioned they dreamed of reaching Europe to search out prosperity – at the very least 18 youths from the village have emigrated overseas in current years. At the identical time, they held up Hassan as a hero for finishing up the at-tack.

In the district the place Kotli Qazi is situated, a hard-line political celebration, Tehreek-e Labbaik, holds highly effective affect – virtually its sole agenda to uphold the blasphemy legal guidelines, which name for the dea-th penalty in opposition to those that offend Islam. Only a few months after Hassan arrived in France, Labbaik Party-backed protesters rallied and blocked roads in the district and different elements of Pakistan in November 2018, livid that a younger Christian lady, Asia Bibi, was free of dea-th row the place she’d confronted execu-tion on blasphemy costs.

“He went to France because compared to other countries, like Saudi Arabia, earning there is much better,” a childhood pal, Mohammad Ikram, mentioned of Hassan. “Young people from our area want to live in Europe.”

But, he added, “all our friends said if they were in his place they would have done the same if they had seen anything blasphemous against the Prophet.”

Ali’s long-time neighbor Amina, in her 80s, remembered Hassan as a good boy.

“He never went looking for mischief like some of those other boys. No, he just wanted to study,” she mentioned. Sitting on a conventional rope-woven mattress in a dusty compound she shared with a number of members of the family she mentioned: “Religiously he did the right thing. You may not agree, but he did right thing.”

Neighbors and shopkeepers mentioned Pakistan’s highly effective safety businesses informed them to say nothing of Hassan or the Paris at-tack. Several expressed concern for the picture their tiny village was getting.

“Please don’t hurt the dignity of our village, don’t take away our dignity,” pleaded one shopkeeper, who didn’t need to give his title afraid of the plainclothes police standing close by.

Hassan’s father, Arshad Mahmoud, refused to speak to reporters who knocked on his home’s gate. Pakistani police and intelligence warned him in opposition to talking publicly after he overtly championed his son’s actions.

Shuja Nawaz, creator, political and safety analyst and a fellow on the Washington-based Atlantic Council, mentioned the inflow of younger migrants from international locations reminiscent of Pakistan into Europe brings two components into collision.

“First, the conditions in the home countries, like Pakistan, that increasingly are becoming more Islamicized and anti-Western through the influence of mullahs and populist governments, while their education systems crumble,” he mentioned. “Second, in the Western countries, where migrants end up legally or illegally, there is a Ghettoization of Muslim immigrants who turn to religion as a defense mechanism and rallying point.”

Official identification paperwork seen by the AP verify Hassan’s date of beginning as Aug. 10, 2002, the second youngest of 9 siblings.

An older brother, Bilal, now 32 and reportedly dwelling in Italy, was the primary of the siblings to journey to Europe, neighbors and police officers mentioned. Hassan’s youthful brother, Ali Murtaza, now 16, additionally migrated to France and was arrested together with Hassan, although he was later launched.

Ikram, Hassan’s pal, mentioned the “illegal” solution to Europe might be very harmful however from his village the bulk who go are, like Hassan, between the age of 15 and 16 as a result of minors usually received’t be ejected.

Hassan launched into the journey in early 2018, crossing by means of Iran, Turkey and Italy and eventually reaching France in August 2018. He was registered as an unaccompanied minor and was initially put in housing in the Paris suburb of Cergy, the place he obtained support accorded to minors.

At some level, he moved to Pantin, a working-class suburb that has a giant immigrant inhabitants, together with North Africans, Sub-Saharan Africans and Pakistanis. He was dwelling in an condominium with a number of different Pakistanis in a dirty brick constructing above a hooka bar and an auto elements store.

“They were quiet, they had their lives, left in the morning to work,” mentioned Zyed Zaied, who runs the auto store. He mentioned he didn’t know the place Hassan labored however mentioned Pakistanis usually discover jobs in eating places.

It was in Pantin that Hassan was dwelling when, on Sept. 1, Charlie Hebdo republished the caricatures of Muhammad. The paper mentioned it was a present of press freedoms on the eve of the beginning of the primary trial over the January 2015 assaults.

On Sept. 25, Hassan had an appointment on the Val d’Oise regional administration to evaluation his residency state of affairs. Hassan had simply turned 18, which means he was now not a minor and would have misplaced his declare to residency in France except he might make an asylum case.

Instead, Hassan went to what he thought have been the workplaces of Charlie Hebdo, unaware that that they had moved. With a cleaver, he attacked two individuals who, it turned out, labored for a documentary movie firm, critically wounding them. He was caught quickly after, speckles of blood on his brow, on the steps of the Bastille Opera.

Relatives informed investigators that in current weeks, Hassan had been watching movies by Tahreek-e Labbaik Party’s chief, Khadim Hussain Rizvi, denouncing the caricatures’ publication, French prosecutors mentioned.

In a video posted to social media forward of the stabbing, Hassan wept and mentioned he had been impressed by the celebration.

“If I sound emotional, then there is a reason for it and let me share it with you. Here in France, caricatures of the Prophet were drawn, and I am going to resist it today.”


Associated Press writers Asim Tanvir in Multan, Pakistan and Elaine Ganley and Angela Charlton in Paris contributed to this report.

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