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Paris police attacker was a known criminal, German police say

The man shot dead in Paris on Thursday while attacking a police station was known to police and had served jail sentences for several offenses, German authorities say. But his real identity remains unclear.

German police on Sunday gave more details about the suspected Islamist attacker, who

lived in a refugee shelter in the western town of Recklinghausen

up to December.

"We know of seven identities," said the director of the Criminal Police Office (LKA) in the state of North Rhine-Westphalia, Uwe Jacob, adding, however, that the true identity of the man had not yet been established.

Jacob said it was not even clear whether the attacker, who had been in prison several times and was known to police for offenses such as drug dealing, causing physical harm and harassment of women, was a Syrian or a Tunisian.

The attacker was also being investigated for violations of weapons laws after police found a pneumatic weapon in his possession, Jacob said.

According to Jacob, current information indicated that the Paris incident was a lone wolf attack, even though the man had painted several flags commonly associated with the "Islamic State" (IS) militant group on the walls of some rooms at the refugee shelter.

French authorities also said the man

was carrying an IS flag

at the time of the attack.

Several countries of abode

The attacker had entered Germany for the first time in 2013, after having lived illegally in France for five years, Jacob said. The man, who identified himself variously as a Tunisian, Moroccan, Syrian and Georgian, had also been arrested in Luxembourg and Sweden, according to the LKA director.

He said the city of Recklinghausen had given the man a residency permit after he applied for asylum.

Asylunterkunft Recklinghausen NRW Deutschland

The attacker lived in this refugee shelter in Recklinghausen until December

Both French and German authorities have said that the dead attacker carried papers identifying him as Tarek Belgacem.

The man was shot dead by French police on Thursday after he tried to storm a police station in northern Paris carrying a meat cleaver, wearing a fake suicide vest and shouting "Allah is great" in Arabic.

German police have said they are cooperating closely with their French counterparts in investigating the case.

Watch video 01:46

Paris police shoot man in fake suicide vest

tj/gsw (Reuters, dpa, epd)

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