The suspect in a shooting at a leading French newspaper office had lived in Britain for several years before returning to France in July, t he Paris prosecutor says.
Abdelhakim Dekhar, also suspected of three other attacks, had written a "confused" letter criticising media manipulation and capitalism and including a vague reference to Syria.
Dekhar is in custody in a suburban Paris hospital after police detained him on Wednesday night, ending a two-day nationwide manhunt. Police found him in a "semi-conscious state" after an attempt to kill himself with medication, Prosecutor Francois Molins told reporters. The witness who turned Dekhar in said he had been staying with him and that they had met while working in a restaurant together in London 13 years ago.
The prosecutor said Dekhar was detained on suspicion of attempted murder and kidnapping in four incidents:
- The shooting of an assistant photographer at leading daily newspaper Liberation on Monday.
- An incident last week at the BFM-TV network in which he threatened staff with a shotgun.
- Shots fired at the headquarters of French bank Societe Generale.
- A driver briefly taken hostage at gunpoint and forced to drive from a western suburb to central Paris.
Dekhar came to police attention in the 1994 as part of an anarchist plot to sow chaos in Paris that culminated in a high-profile robbery and car chase that left three police officers, a taxi driver and one attacker dead. He was convicted as an accomplice and served four years in prison in the so-called Rey-Maupin affair, one of the bloodiest common crimes in France in a decade, Interior Minister Manuel Valls said.
The motive for the recent attacks remains hazy. Police found Dekhar in a parking garage after a witness came forward to say that he had been staying with her. Police had asked the public to help find him and distributed video surveillance images of him.
After his arrest, investigators found two letters he left behind. One appeared to be a suicide note, and the other was a "rather confused" letter evoking "fascist plots."
In the second letter, the suspect accuses the media of "participating in the manipulation of the masses, journalists are paid to make the citizens swallow lies with a little spoon."
He also criticises capitalism and government neglect of suburban housing projects, which he calls "an enterprise of dehumanization of a population that the capital doesn't want." Such projects, home to many disillusioned and jobless families with roots in former French colonies in Africa, erupted in riots in 2005, and tensions between project youth and police continue to erupt in sporadic violence.
Mr Molins said psychiatrists who examined Dekhar in the 1990s described him as having "storytelling tendencies" though "no specific anomaly in the psychiatric sense." He is to undergo psychiatric examination as well as police questioning.
The shooting prompted cries of concern about attacks on the media. Security was tightened at media offices and on the busy Champs-Elysees.