death cult,  Extremism,  France

L’ENSAUVAGEMENT : Deux (vrais) faits divers.

By Madame Le Cerf

L’ensauvagement is a buzz word here these days. Often on the lips of right-wing politicians, despised by the far left and swathes of the not so far left, it has been used by Emmanuel Macron himself. I have not been able to find a single word in English which encompasses it. It is not in either of my 1991 edition of Harrap’s Shorter English/French dictionary or my 1995 edition of Larousse de Poche. Google gives a whole gamut of books with the word in the title. Wikipedia France defines it as “a sign of the abandonment of the social pact and a return to a state where each person resolves his problems off his own bat” which the English words “wildness” and “savagery” (given by Google translation) don’t really cover. “Going to the dogs” is a bit too mild because, while it covers a decline in public services, it lacks the necessary connotation of violence and incivility growing and not being properly addressed by the power of the state as invested in the policing and judicial systems. My husband does my typing and came up with “barbarisation” which I think is the best I have seen to date.

L’ensauvagement is not a new phenomenon but it is one which is creeping up and growing. In this article I will give two examples of horrible crimes which have been committed in the last decade and which have been classed as faits divers rather than terrorism.

Many readers of these blogs will recognise the name of Sarah Halimi. On 4th April 2017 at about 4 am Lucie Atal Halimi, known as Sarah, an Orthodox Jewess aged 65, was sleeping peacefully when Kobili Traoré broke into her apartment. He had arrived at the door of the neighbouring apartment where a family called Diarra lived and forced his way inside. As Traoré was obviously angry about something (he had previously had a dispute with his family), the Diarras locked themselves into a room and called the police. Traoré then climbed from the Diarras’ balcony onto Sarah Halimi’s adjacent balcony and broke into her apartment. He beat the poor woman for about 10 minutes and then dragged her onto her balcony raining down blows , kicking and insulting her and calling her Shaitan. He recited Koran verses and shouted “Allahu Akbar” several times. He tried to suffocate her and, seeing police officers had arrived in the courtyard below, shouted that she was going to kill herself and flung her over the edge shouting “I have killed the neighbourhood demon”. All this lasted 20/30 minutes and part of it was filmed by another neighbour who had been woken up by the victim’s screams. Traoré returned onto the Diarra’s balcony and went into their sitting room where he started to pray.


Sarah Halimi


The police behaviour was appalling. The BAC (Brigade anti-Criminalité) was at the scene before Sarah Halimi was thrown off the balcony but did not intervene because they (three of them with guns) were waiting for reinforcements. They claim that they thought they were dealing with 2 separate incidents-the sequestration of the Diarra family and the violence on the balcony which they thought was a “domestic”. So they hung about outside the door to the Diarras’ apartment, thinking that whoever was holding them hostage was a terrorist. It was nearly an hour later that the emergency services actually went into the courtyard and found Sarah Halimi’s body.
Kobili Traoré had the kind of background which is commonly seen in the terrorist perpetrators I’ve described in “Faits Divers”. One of six children, his father died when he was eight and his childhood became chaotic with frequent sojourns in children’s homes. He left school at 16 and quickly began a criminal career which led to about 20 convictions for theft, violence, drug dealing and carrying weapons. He received 6 prison sentences but his file contained no hint of any mental disorder.


Since 2015 he had spent his time doing nothing in particular but was considered by his friends and family “a nice lad”. He had been a heavy cannabis user since adolescence and from 2017 used a more concentrated form. He attended the Omar Mosque which was well known for its radical Islamism. According to his family, he had been behaving strangely for a few days before the murder. Traoré admitted knowing that Sarah Halimi was a practising Jewess-the only Jewish person living in the building for some years-but said he was not antisemitic and that his actions might have “fallen on anybody”. However, Sarah’s brother, William Atal, testified that Sarah was afraid of Traoré who, along with other members of his family, had called her “a dirty Jewess” on numerous occasions.


After being arrested (he hurt 2 of the 8 police officers it took to restrain him) his blood test showed he had taken cannabis. The medical judge decided that his state of mind precluded questioning and had him sent to a mental hospital. Nevertheless, he was sufficiently compos mentis to procure more cannabis there.


On 7th April the procureur, François Molins declared that, so far as the enquiry had been able to determine to date, the crime was not antisemitic in nature but that the possibility that it was had not been entirely ruled out. The juge d’instruction (the magistrate in charge of the enquiry), Anne Ihuellou, asked for a psychiatric report on Traoré. On 22nd May the lawyers for the Halimi family asked for the charge to be modified to include the aggravating motive of antisemitism, taking into consideration the circumstances of the murder and the accused’s history of radicalisation and antisemitic behaviour. On 12th July Traoré was charged with forcible confinement of the Diarra family and intentional homicide. In September the prosecuting authority asked the judge to include the antisemitic nature of the attack in the charge.
Two psychiatric examinations of Traoré resulted in opposing conclusions. The first concluded that he was fit to stand trial for murder. For an unknown reason the juge d’instruction was not satisfied with that and ordered a new examination which came to the opposite conclusion. The necessary third examination concluded that “a temporary acute psychotic episode due to cannabis consumption had removed his discernment”. In July 2019 Anne Ihuellou ruled that Traoré was likely not criminally responsible for his actions and this was confirmed by the Paris Court of Appeal at the end of 2019. In 2021 the ruling was upheld by the Court of Cassation, the Supreme Court. The Halimi family have said that they will take the case to the European Court of Human Rights.

This murder generated significant public reaction here and elsewhere with intellectual, media, political and Jewish community voices demanding that antisemitism and Islamist terrorism be investigated as possible motives. The French government and press were accused of a cover-up which seems not unreasonable given the initial lack of publicity and the fact that the events took place just before the 2017 Presidential election in which Marine Le Pen, a fierce critic of Islamism, was standing against the incumbent François  Hollande.
17 leading French intellectuals including Elisabeth Badinter, Michel Onfray, Georges Bensoussan and Alain Finkielkraut wrote the lead in Le Figaro on 2nd June 2017 asking for light to be shed on the death of “this French woman of Jewish religion killed to cries of Allahu Akbar” and denouncing the fact that “this unusually barbaric crime received little attention from the media”. Le Monde did not cover the story until 23rd June!

Later, when it was decided that Traoré was not fit to stand trial, Shimon Samuels of the Simon Wiesenthal Centre Europe pointed out that “if justice is perverted and murder excused due to drug addiction this sets a precedent for every drunk driver to be similarly acquitted”.

There have been pointed questions asked about the role of the police and examining magistrate in the case. While 3 armed officers waited for reinforcements outside the Diarras’ apartment, there were several calls to the police emergency hotline reporting a woman screaming as a man apparently beat her up shouting “Shut your mouth”, “Allahu Akbar” and “I killed the Shaitan”. In France it is a criminal offence to fail to come to the aid of a person in danger. So far none of the officers involved in this incident have been charged with this offence.


Following the Court of Cassation’s decision in April 2021,  Macron called for the law to be changed stating that “France does not judge citizens who are sick, we treat them…but deciding to take drugs and then “going crazy” should not, in my opinion, absolve one of criminal responsibility. Fine words but what’s the follow-up? Not much. A new law introduced in 2021 excludes the “not criminally responsible due to mental disturbance” defence in cases where the accused has taken drugs to psych themselves up to commit an attack (e.g. a jihadi on Captagon¹).

On 24th November 2021 the examining magistrate, Anne Ihuellou, was questioned before a parliamentary Commission of Enquiry looking into the failures of the justice system and the police in the case of Sarah Halimi. Pointed questions were asked. Why had she not interviewed the neighbours who had witnessed the assault and the death of the victim from their windows? Why did it take her 10 months to acknowledge the antisemitic motivation for the crime? Why had she not investigated the Islamic radicalisation of Traoré by hearing what his friends and relatives had to say or looking through their phones? Why had she immediately brushed aside the possibility of a terrorist attack without looking into it? Why has she not ordered a re-enactment of the crime (this is common here)? Why had she not even visited the scene of the crime? Why had she not considered premeditation? The questioning made her angry and she sometimes refused to answer. Her persistent refusal to meet Sarah Halimi’s family or Jewish organisations astonished one of the deputies present, himself a former lawyer. On 6th January 2022 the National Assembly published its report of the inquiry which declared that there had been no serious mishandling. Nevertheless some “weaknesses” in the police response were noted and there was a recommendation that when a person who had killed someone left psychiatric care the prosecution service should be informed so a new psychiatric examination could be ordered; i.e. don’t just trust the hospital doctors to decide whether this person should be at large.


Anne Ihuellou

Many people thought this inquiry was a whitewash. Several very troubling details about the case had emerged. When the 3 policemen arrived at the Diarra apartment block just minutes after the phone call, M. Diarra who had made the call threw the keys to the apartment down to them. When they arrived at the apartment door, they could hear Traoré praying in Arabic inside. They had been informed in the phone call that he was not armed. So why didn’t they simply open the door, go in and arrest him instead of calling for reinforcements? If they had done so, Traoré couldn’t have climbed over the balcony and killed Sarah Halimi.


When he was questioned by the psychiatric examiners Traoré declared that he had entered Halimi’s apartment without knowing who lived there. Lie number 1 : -he had lived in the apartment block for decades alongside Sarah Halimi for years and she was afraid of him because both he and his sister regularly showered her with antisemitic insults. Had the examining magistrate bothered to interview any of Mme. Halimi’s relatives she would have learned this.

Traoré then said that the sight of the “Torah scroll and the menorah ignited “him into a psychotic state”. However, there was no menorah in the Halimi home; only ordinary Shabat candlesticks. There was no Torah scroll either; only some Jewish books that Traoré would have struggled to identify in the dark. If Anne Ihuellou had bothered to visit the scene of the crime she could have ascertained this.


The day before the murder Traoré had visited the Diarra apartment with a towel and a set of clean clothes. He asked M. Diarra to look after his sister’s children. This might appear unfathomable but to someone cognisant of jihadi practices it might indicate that Traoré was expecting to die in a jihadi attack. He put on the clean clothes before climbing onto Mme.Halimi’s balcony. Yet Ihuellou refused to consider either premeditation or a terrorist motive. As Meyer Habib, the deputy who was much criticised for his outbursts before the commission of enquiry, pointed out “We cannot order another trial. From what we have heard so far, many flaws stand out: they did not check Traoré and his friends’ cellphones and did not interrogate people at the Omar mosque. Officers who arrived on the scene first were ill-prepared to deal with the situation. And most importantly, all the evidence that indicated that this was a deliberate murder was intentionally ignored…..They turned him into a crazy person who smoked weed.”. Sarah Halimi was buried in Jerusalem.

Mirielle Knoll

On 23rd March 2018 Mirielle Knoll, a holocaust survivor aged 85, was stabbed at her home in the 11th arrondisement in Paris. The Fire Brigade went into her apartment at about 10.30 after a neighbour had reported a fire. They found Mme. Knoll’s partially burned corpse on her bed. She had suffered 11 stab wounds. In May the Paris parquet started prosecutions for murder with antisemitic motivation against two suspects, Yacne Mihoub and Alex Carrimbacus.

Mirielle Karbel was born in Paris. Her father was a tailor from Odessa and her mother came from Varsovie in Poland. The family was able to leave Paris just before the Vel’d’Hiver round up in July 1942. The mother was able to use the Brazilian passport she had acquired by living in Brazil for a few years before she arrived in France. The father had been arrested in 1940 but he was freed and the family was able to travel to Lisbon. Aided by the American Joint Distribution Committee Mireille went to Canada nine months before the liberation in 1944. She returned to France and in 1949 she married Karl Knoll. By 2018 she had been a widow for several years and was disabled with Parkinson’s Disease and unable to leave her apartment except in a wheelchair.
The forensic investigators found fires had started in five different places in the apartment. Mme. Knoll’s neighbour, Yacine Mihoub, 28, was suspected ,arrested and questioned. He had been convicted the previous year of sexually assaulting the 12-year-old daughter of Mme Knoll’s carer and was being investigated for violence and issuing death threats. The second suspect, Alex Carirmbacus, was arrested near the Opéra Bastille. The two men accused each other of the stabbings. Carrimbacus, who had met Mihoub in prison, said that the latter had sounded off about Jews being rich and well placed before shouting “Allahu Akbar” and stabbing Mme. Knoll. He later retracted this account. The police explored the possibility of revenge for Mihoub’s conviction for the assault on Mme. Knoll’s carer’s daughter.

On 10 November 2021 Mihoub was convicted of the antisemitic murder of Mireille Knoll and sentenced to life imprisonment with a minimum of 22 years. Carrimbacus was acquitted of murder but convicted of theft and sentenced to 15 years. Both men appealed but later withdrew their appeals. An alley was named after Mme. Knoll in 2021.

Both Sarah Halimi and Mireille Knoll were murdered by neighbours – young men whom they had lived alongside for many years. Both were murdered because they were Jewish. Both died in appalling ways. But there was one major difference. Sarah Halimi had been frightened of her killer. Traoré and members of his family had been proffering antisemitic insults for years. But Mireille Knoll had had a good relationship with Mihoub for many years. He had visited her in her apartment since his early boyhood and she had always been kind to him. Indeed, on the day of the murder she had invited Mihoub and Carrimbacus in and served them port. Mihoub’s mother was convicted of destroying evidence by getting rid of the glasses and washing the knife. Imagine the old lady’s horror when the young man she had treated so well betrayed her trust and turned on her.





1. Captagon is a  major stimulant used amongst some jihadist fighters. It is sometimes dubbed the “Jihad drug” because of this. It quickly produces a euphoric intensity in users, allowing users to stay awake for very long periods of time. Later research demonstrated that it was the Syrian government of Bashar al-Assad that has been financing Captagon production and sponsoring networks of its drug dealers in coordination with the Syrian intelligence. It is also the party drug of choice in the Gulf.