Saturday 16 December 2017

Paris terror alert after Isil attack

  • Policeman shot dead, two injured in gun attack on Champs-Élysées
  • Police carry out series of raids in Paris after Isil claims shooting
  • Horror comes three days ahead of first round of presidential vote
French security forces secure the area around the Champs Elysses after the gun attack that left a police officer and the attacker dead. Photo: AFP/Getty Images
French security forces secure the area around the Champs Elysses after the gun attack that left a police officer and the attacker dead. Photo: AFP/Getty Images

David Chazan and Henry Samuel

One police officer was killed and two wounded on the Champs-Élysées last night by a gunman believed to be carrying a Kalashnikov rifle, prompting French prosecutors to open a terror investigation.

The shooting in Paris came just days before the first round of the country's presidential election and was allegedly carried out by a 39-year-old man from a suburb east of Paris who was previously known to the security services, according to reports.

Hundreds of police flooded the area around the Champs-Élysées after the attack which left one officer dead, according to police sources.

French prosecutors said they had opened a counterterrorism investigation, while a French interior ministry spokesman said there may be more than one attacker and the police had been "deliberately targeted" though the motive remained unconfirmed.

Raids

Police immediately began a series of raids in Paris last night amid reports that a second assailant may have escaped the scene.

forensic officers examine a car at the scene believed to have been used by the killer. Photo: REUTERS
forensic officers examine a car at the scene believed to have been used by the killer. Photo: REUTERS

There were reports last night that French authorities had issued an arrest warrant for a Belgian man said to have entered the country in the preceding days.

President Francois Hollande, who said he was convinced the attack was terrorism-related, scheduled an emergency meeting for this morning following the attack, which comes after two men were reportedly arrested yesterday in Marseille in the final stages of preparing "several" attacks.

Donald Trump, the US president, said: "Our condolences from the people of the United States to the people of Paris. It looks like another terrorist attack. What can you say? It never ends."

Initial reports from the French police union said that the officer were killed while sitting in a car at a red light by an attacker wielding a Kalashnikov assault rifle.

Police question shoppers and tourists at gunpoint after a policeman was killed. Photo: AFP/Getty Images
Police question shoppers and tourists at gunpoint after a policeman was killed. Photo: AFP/Getty Images

One eye-witness said the attacker jumped out of a car and began shooting "with a Kalashnikov" hitting the officers.

He was shot as he walked along the street towards other policemen.

Forensic officers were last night examining a grey Audi thought to have been driven by the gunman.

Police officers secure the area after a gunman opened fire on the Champs Elysees. Photo: GETTY
Police officers secure the area after a gunman opened fire on the Champs Elysees. Photo: GETTY

Police helicopters were seen flying low over central Paris, apparently part of a follow-up police operation, as authorities threw a massive security cordon around the area.

Reports said the first shots were heard outside the branch of Marks & Spencer in one of the world's most renowned shopping districts.

The attack came just three days before the first round of France's presidential election which has been marked by the resurgence of Marine Le Pen, the French National Front leader, who has campaigned heavily on the potential security threat posed by immigration.

Election

And presidential candidate Francois Fillon last night called for the election to be suspended in the wake of the attack.

Anti-terror officers on the Champs-Élysées. Photo: REUTERS/Christian Hartmann
Anti-terror officers on the Champs-Élysées. Photo: REUTERS/Christian Hartmann

There was immediate speculation on social media that the attack would benefit Ms Le Pen, particularly if it was confirmed to have an Islamist connection or motive.

However, analysts noted that in the past populist politicians have not received a polling bounce following terror attacks, including the attack on the Bataclan theatre in 2015 that led to the imposition of a state of emergency.

During the televised debate Ms Le Pen repeated her demands to take France out of the Schengen free movement zone and introduce tighter immigration controls. She wrote: "The influx of migrants is in front of us. Control our borders, otherwise we won't stop this wave!"

Later, as news of the attack emerged, Ms Le Pen tweeted to express "solidarity" with the forces of law and order.

Her stance was echoed by the centre-right candidate Francois Fillon, who paid tribute "to the security forces who give their lives to protect ours".

Irish Independent

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