Friday 18 August 2017

Paris police officer killed and two wounded in suspected terror attack

  • Police source reports more shots fired at second location
  • Suspect in the attack previously flagged as extremist
  • Islamic state claim responsibility for attack
  • Counter-terrorism investigation opened
Police officers block the access to the Champs Elysees in Paris after a shooting AFP PHOTO / THOMAS SAMSONTHOMAS SAMSON/AFP/Getty Images
Police secure the Champs Elysees Avenue after one policeman was killed and another wounded in a shooting incident in Paris, France, April 20, 2017. REUTERS/Christian Hartmann
Picture from video taken by @dotemirateseng
People stands in a street near the site of a shooting at the Champs Elysees in Paris on April 20, 2017. / AFP PHOTO / FRANCK FIFEFRANCK FIFE/AFP/Getty Images
Independent.ie Newsdesk

Independent.ie Newsdesk

A policeman was killed and two were others were seriously wounded in a shooting incident in central Paris tonight, police and the interior ministry said.

The Islamic State group claimed the shooting, days before French presidential elections, via its Amaq news agency, naming the attacker as Abu Yousif the Belgian. President Francois Hollande said he was convinced it was a terrorist attack.

In this image made from video, police attend the scene after an incident on the Champs-Elysees in Paris, Thursday April 20, 2017. French media are reporting that two police officers were shot Thursday on the famed shopping boulevard. (AP Photo)
In this image made from video, police attend the scene after an incident on the Champs-Elysees in Paris, Thursday April 20, 2017. French media are reporting that two police officers were shot Thursday on the famed shopping boulevard. (AP Photo)

French officials told the Press Association that the suspect was previously flagged as an extremist.

A second suspect who might have been involved in the incident on the Champs Elysees shopping boulevard may still be on the loose, authorities said. The famous wide street that leads away from the Arc de Triomphe that had earlier been crowded with Parisians and tourists enjoying a spring evening remained closed off hours after the incident.

France has lived under a state of emergency since 2015 and has suffered a spate of Islamist militant attacks, mostly perpetrated by young men who grew up in France and Belgium, and that have killed more than 230 people in the past two years.

Interior ministry spokesman Pierre-Henry Brandet said it was too early to say what the motive of the attack was, but that it was clear the police officers had been deliberately targeted.

"A little after 9 PM a vehicle stopped alongside a police car which was parked. Immediately a man got out and fired on the police vehicle, mortally wounding a police officer," Brandet said.

Officers at the scene said they were searching for a potential second assailant, and Brandet said it could not be ruled out that there was another or others involved.

Officers also conducted a search at the home in eastern Paris of the dead attacker.

"I came out of the Sephora shop and I was walking along the pavement.... A man got out of a car and opened fire with a kalashnikov on a policeman," witness Chelloug, a kitchen assistant, told Reuters.

"The policeman fell down. I heard six shots, I was afraid. I have a two year-old girl and I thought I was going to die... He shot straight at the police officer."

POLICE CLEAR THE AREA

Police authorities called on the public to avoid the area.

TV footage showed the Arc de Triomphe monument and the top half of the Champs Elysees packed with police vans, lights flashing and heavily armed police shutting the area down after what was described by one journalist as a major exchange of fire near a Marks and Spencers store.

The incident came as French voters prepared go to the polls on Sunday in the most tightly-contested presidential election in living memory.

"We shall be of the utmost vigilance, especially in relation to the election," said President Francois Hollande, who is not himself running for re-election.

Donald Trump has offered his condolences to the people of France saying it looks like another terrorist attack.

Earlier this week, two men were arrested in Marseille who police said had been planning an attack ahead of the election.

That incident brought issues of security and immigration back to the forefront of the campaign, with the anti-immigration National Front leader Marine Le Pen repeating her call for Europe's partly open borders to be closed.

A machine gun, two hand guns and three kilos of TATP explosive were among the weapons found at a flat in the southern city along with jihadist propaganda materials according to the Paris prosecutor.

Candidates in the election said they had been warned about the Marseille attackers. Francois Fillon, who is the conservative candidate, said he would cancel the campaign events he had been planning for Friday. In November, 2015, Paris was rocked by near simultaneous gun-and-bomb attacks on entertainment sites, in which 130 people died and 368 were wounded. Islamic State claimed responsibility. Two of the 10 known perpetrators were Belgian citizens and three others were French.

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