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Champs Elysees, Paris; terror suspect caught on camera moments before shooting

Terror attack on Champs Elysees, Paris could increase Le Pen’s chances

A police officer was killed and two were seriously injured during a shooting incident in the center of Paris, the French Ministry of Internal Affairs said. The terror attack could increase Marine Le Pen's chances of winning

Published: April 21, 2017, 8:52 am

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    President Francois Hollande said the shooting was of a “terrorist nature” while the Islamic state (ISIS) claimed responsibility for the attack.

    Some 238 people have been killed in jihadist attacks in France since 2015, according to data from AFP news agency.

    The incident comes only days before the first round of the French presidential elections, scheduled for 23 April. Marine Le Pen of the Front National Front expressed her “solidarity with the [French] security forces, which were targeted again.” Le Pen indicated that she would postpone her presidential campaign on Friday, according to AFP.

    Two days ago, two men were detained in the French southern city of Marseille, suspected of having planned a “violent and threatening attack” before the presidential election. Guns and explosives were reported to be found during the search in their apartment. One of the suspects has recently been converted to Islam, according to Le Soir.

    Le Pen has vowed to shut France’s borders and to deport foreigners with suspected links to Islamic extremist organisations. Pascal Perrineau, head of the Cevipof political research foundation at Sciences Po university, told the Anglo-American Press Association last month a terrorist attack could swing voters to support Le Pen.

    “An attack could intrude on the electoral campaign; it could have an effect on the results right up until the second round. This we have never seen before.”

    Le Pen had said only minutes before news of the attack emerged: “We must take control of our national borders to know who is coming in. We must reorganise the intelligence services, reinforce the means at the disposal of police and gendarmes, and attack the evil at its roots – that’s to say the communitarianism and the development of Islamic fundamentalism.”

    She also repeated her threat to expel foreign nationals who were on Fiche-S, a national list of those considered a potential threat to national security, even if they had not been convicted of any crime.

    The shooting took place on the central Parisian boulevard of the Champs Elysees. The alleged attacker was shot dead, according to police.

    The French president, Hollande, said after a crisis meeting at the presidential palace that all clues indicate that the attack was of a “terrorist nature”.

    Hollande assured the public that “we will be absolutely vigilant” during the forthcoming presidential election.

    The police are currently investigating a suspicious shelter in Chelles, a community in the eastern suburbs of Paris, about 20 km from the center, Le Parisien reported.

    Hollande announced that a security committee will convene for a meeting at 8:00 on Friday, adding that a national tribute will be held for the murdered police officer.

    The police are trying to determine whether the shooter had accomplices. Meanwhile, the French Ministry of Internal Affairs has confirmed that the life of the police officer, who was severely injured during the attack, is no longer at risk.

    “The attacker’s identity is known and checked. I will not announce it because investigations about attacks are ongoing. The investigators wanted to be sure whether they had accomplices or not,” Francois Molins, the prosecutor of Paris, told reporters.

    AFP, Le Parisien and other news outlets reported that the attacker had been jailed in 2005 for the attempted murder of three police officers.

    The French Ministry of Internal Affairs has previously confirmed in a Twitter post that the attacker targeted a police bus that was parked on the side of the boulevard.

    The armed man who killed the policeman was already known to law enforcement officers, the police confirmed without revealing the identity of the attacker.

    A foreign citizen was also injured as a result of the attack, Paris prosecutor Francois Molins told BMF TV. Witnesses interviewed by AFP recounted scenes of panic as people ran for cover and sought shelter.

    ISIS confirmed the attack as their work, reported AFP, referring to the Amaq media agency affiliated with the terrorist group. It also pointed out Abu Yusuf al-Beljiki as the man behind the attack.

    The shooting took place near the Franklin D. Roosevelt metro station in the 8th district of the French capital, the French RTL TV channel reported, at about 21:00 (local time). After killing an officer, the terrorist attempted to run away while shooting at other officers, two of whom he injured, a ministry spokesman said.

    In the meantime, eyewitnesses told the local media that the attacker jumped out of a car with a Kalashnikov to attack on the officers. This information was then partially confirmed by the spokesman for the domestic service, Pierre-Henry Brandet, who told journalists that “an automatic weapon against the police – a weapon of war – has been used”.

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