French PM pays tribute to slain police worker

French Prime Minister Jean Castex awards posthumously Stephanie Monferme, a mother and local police employee, with the Legion of Honour during a remembrance gathering, in Rambouillet near Paris, France April 30, 2021. Ludovic Marin/Pool via REUTERS

RAMBOUILLET, France (Reuters) - French Prime Minister Jean Castex paid tribute in a nationally televised ceremony on Friday to an administrative police worker stabbed to death last week at a police station, saying she was victim of "Islamist terrorism".

The killing of Stephanie Monferme, a 49-year-old mother of three, by a Tunisian national who was then shot dead by police was the latest in a string of Islamist-inspired attacks on French soil in recent years.

France faces a presidential election next year where issues such as militant Islam, immigration and violent crime are expected to dominate the agenda.

"Stephanie was murdered because she represented the French police and the authority of the state. She was murdered because she served France," Castex told a ceremony attended by top government and police officials.

"Islamist terrorism has declared war on us but it is a war led by cowards. Only a coward could attack a woman who, because of her job, did not carry a weapon," he said.

Castex ended the ceremony by posthumously awarding Monferme France's highest medal, the Chevalier de La Legion d'Honneur. A minute of silence was followed by the Marseillaise national anthem.

On Wednesday, draft legislation was submitted to President Emmanuel Macron's government to strengthen counter-terrorism laws by permitting the use of algorithms to detect activity on jihadist and other extremist websites.

The official investigation had shown that Stephanie Monferme's assailant had watched religious videos glorifying acts of jihad just before carrying out his attack on the police worker in the Paris commuter town of Rambouillet.

(Reporting by Dominique Vidalon; Editing by Mark Heinrich)

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