Paris shooting: Police officer and gunman die on Champs Elysees in attack claimed by Islamic State




A policeman was shot dead on the Champs-Élysées in Paris on Thursday night in an apparent Isil-inspired terror attack.


The shooting, in which the gunman was also killed, was carried out by a man who was under preliminary investigation for terrorism but “let go”.


The attack raised questions over how yet another Islamist extremist known to police was able to bring terror to the heart of the French capital.









The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isil) identified the attacker as one of its soldiers, naming him as Abu Yousif, a Belgian. Police said last night the man had been identified, but his name would not be revealed until investigators determined whether he had accomplices, Reuters reported.


The gunman had recently been detained for questioning in a police station in Meaux, outside Paris, after “informants” had indicated that he was “seeking to obtain weapons to kill policemen”, according to reports.


But due to a lack of evidence, anti-terror prosecutors “let him go”.









The 39-year-old gunman was known by intelligence services for radicalisation and had targeted police 16 years ago in a car chase, when he opened fire on officers, according to reports.










During questioning, he managed to get hold of a police weapon and fire five times. The policeman survived, but the man was sentence to several years in prison for the attack.


The shooting came just three days before the first round of the country’s presidential election, and François Fillon, the conservative candidate, last night called for election campaigning to be suspended.








The Champs Elysee Avenue is blocked during ongoing police operations
The Champs Elysee Avenue is blocked during ongoing police operations

Credit:
EPA







Security will be heightened across the country in the run-up to Sunday’s election.


It was highly unusual for Isil to both take responsibility and name the perpetrator so soon after an attack.


The gunman opened fire on a police car parked on the Champs-Élysées, hitting at least two officers on Thursday. The man’s gun, thought to have been a Kalashnikov, was described as a “war weapon”.


The man was then shot dead as he fled and police later carried out searches at an address east of Paris.








The Champs Elysees after the attack
The Champs Elysees after the attack




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”. Reuters reported that an arrest warrant had been issued for a second suspect who had arrived in Paris from Belgium. The terrorists who attacked Paris in Nov 2015 travelled from Belgium.


François Hollande scheduled an emergency meeting following the attack, which came after two men were arrested earlier this week in Marseille who were thought to be in the final stages of preparing “several” attacks.


The French president said police were convinced that the attack was “terrorist in nature”. “A national tribute will be paid to this policeman who was killed in such a cowardly way,” he said.








Forensic experts and police officers examine evidence from a police van on the Champs Elysees
Forensic experts and police officers examine evidence from a police van on the Champs Elysees

Credit:
AP





Both Mr Fillon and Marine Le Pen, the Front National presidential candidate, confirmed last night that they were cancelling campaign trips today.










Mr Fillon said: “The fight against terrorism must be the absolute priority of the next French president.”


The UK Foreign Office said: "The British embassy is in contact with local authorities and urgently seeking further information following reports of a shooting incident on the Champs-Elysees in Paris.


"You should remain vigilant and follow the advice of the local security authorities and/or your tour operator.


"If you're in the area and it is safe to do so, contact your friends and family to tell them you are safe."








Forensic experts collect evidences from the car belonging to an attacker who killed a police officer on the Champs Elysees avenue in Paris
Forensic experts collect evidences from the car belonging to an attacker who killed a police officer on the Champs Elysees avenue in Paris

Credit:
AP







A Downing Street spokesman said: "The UK strongly condemns the appalling terrorist attack in Paris. The Prime Minister has tonight passed on her condolences to President Hollande."


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 was killed while sitting in a car at a red light.


One eye-witness said the attacker jumped out of a car and began shooting "with a Kalashnikov", hitting the officers. Police helicopters were seen flying low, apparently part of a follow-up operation, as authorities threw a massive security cordon around the area.


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








A French soldier stands guard during ongoing police operations
A French soldier stands guard during ongoing police operations

Credit:
EPA





France’s presidential election has been marked by the resurgence of Ms Le Pen, who has campaigned on the potential security threat posed by immigration. 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 ahead 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 controls. She said: “The influx of migrants is in front of us. Control our borders, otherwise we won’t stop this wave!”









Can Marine Le Pen win the French election?


Can Marine Le Pen win the French election?


01:46











The fact the gunman was known to police will raise further questions about how terrorists in France have been able to evade capture. All three of the terrorists in the January 2015 Charlie Hebdo attacks – Cherif and Said Kouachi, and Amedy Coulibaly – were known to police.


The 2016 Nice attack, in which 86 people were killed when a cargo truck was driven into crowds of people celebrating Bastille Day, was also carried out by an Islamist extremist known to police. Mohamed Lahouaiej Bouhlel received a six-month suspended prison sentence for attacking a person involved in a road accident with a piece of wood and he was facing allegations of domestic abuse, theft and “use of weapons”.


Cyril, 40, a witness to last night’s attack in Paris, said: “I was on the corner beside Marks & Spencer and Zara, waiting in my car for a friend, 10 or 15 metres from a police van. I saw a man all in black approaching the van as if he was asking for information, and he took out a Kalashnikov and fired, with his right hand.”









Police officer killed in Champs Elysees shooting


Police officer killed in Champs Elysees shooting


00:47











He told The Daily Telegraph: “I started my car and pushed three or four other cars so I could do a U-turn. I’m totally certain he meant to kill the police. He was wearing a big black quilted coat and had hidden the gun under it.”










Another witness, Walid, came out of a café on the Champs-Élysées and saw people running. “I asked what was wrong and they said there was shooting. I was 50 or 100 metres from the gunman and I started to run with them. Quite quickly we saw a helicopter over the area. Then police cars came and blocked off the area. There were a lot of sirens and flashing lights…. No one knew if it was over or if more attacks were happening.”









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9:52AM

Three family members detained





The Paris prosecutors' office leading the investigation into the Champs-Elysees gun attack says police have detained for questioning three family members of the suspected gunman, who was shot and killed.


The prosecutors' office stressed that questioning family members is routine in such cases, as investigators seek to determine whether the gunman was acting alone, where he got his weapons and other details.








French police leave the house of the gunman killed in a shootout with police on the Champs Elysees Avenue, in the Paris suburb of Chelles
French police leave the house of the gunman killed in a shootout with police on the Champs Elysees Avenue, in the Paris suburb of Chelles

Credit:
REUTERS/Charles Platiau







The Islamic State group quickly claimed responsibility for the attack that killed one police officers and injured two others on the iconic Parisian boulevard Thursday night.


Meanwhile, the Belgian man who had been linked by some as an accomplice to the Paris terror attack turned himself in, but authorities said there was no link.








Officers have also detained three members of the gunman's family
Officers have also detained three members of the gunman's family

Credit:
REUTERS/Charles Platiau







A prosecutor in Belgium's Antwerp said: "That man came to police late yesterday after he saw himself appear on social media as terror suspect No. 1 relating to yesterday's facts."


The prosecutor, who declined to be identified because the investigation was ongoing, said the man had nothing to do with the attack. "He was not part of a terrorism investigation."


Belgian Justice Minister Koen Geens told VRT network early this morning that "at this moment we have no information about Belgian links."












9:31AM

Le Pen: 'It is time to stop being naive'





Far-right presidential candidate Marine Le Pen has said France should immediately reinstate border checks and expel foreigners who are on the watch lists of intelligence services.








Far-right leader and candidate for the presidential election Marine Le Pen speaks in Paris
Far-right leader and candidate for the presidential election Marine Le Pen speaks in Paris

Credit:
AP Photo/Michel Euler







Reacting to Thursday night's killing of a police officer in an attack claimed by Islamic State, Le Pen, who has been campaigning on a hardline anti-EU, anti-immigration platform, urged the Socialist government to carry out immediately these measures that are included in her campaign manifesto.


She called for "a clear head and a firm grip" in the wake of the Champs-Elysees gun attack that put the focus back on one of the main themes of her election campaign for the French presidency: France's fight against Islamic extremism.


Speaking on RFI radio, Le Pen said: "It is time to stop being naive."


One of the key questions heading into Sunday's first-round vote is whether the attack on Thursday night that killed a police officer and injured two others could bump up the vote for her program of stepped-up security and border controls, more resources for police and tougher treatment of radicals listed on the government's database of people regarded as potential threats to national security.












8:54AM

'Unity that must prevail'





Speaking at the Elysee Palace in Paris, French Prime Minister Bernard Cazeneuve said: "We must never yield to division.


"It is obscurantism and intolerance that must be fought, and more than ever, it is unity that must prevail.


"He appealed to people to show a spirit of responsibility and a sense of dignity."








French Prime Minister Bernard Cazeneuve speaks next to Interior Minister Matthias Fekl (L) and Justice Minister Jean-Jacques Urvoas
French Prime Minister Bernard Cazeneuve speaks next to Interior Minister Matthias Fekl (L) and Justice Minister Jean-Jacques Urvoas

Credit:
THOMAS SAMSON/AFP/Getty Images







Meanwhile, Marine Le Pen is due to speak in the coming minutes.












8:27AM

Second suspect 'hands himself in'





A significant update from David Chazan in Paris. He reports that French sources say the man flagged up by Belgian authorities in connection with the attack has turned himself in to Belgian police.


"The man in the wanted notice issued by Belgian authorities presented himself to a police station in Antwerp," ministry spokesman Pierre-Henry Brandet told AFP.


Three people described as “close to the attacker” are in custody, French police sources said.












8:14AM

Face of gunman revealed





The first picture of the gunman, 39-year-old French national Karim Cheurfi, from an east Paris suburb, has been put out by AP on the condition that its source is not revealed.


Here it is:








Karim Cheurfi, the gunman opened fire on police on Paris
Karim Cheurfi, the gunman opened fire on police on Paris

Credit:
AP Photo







For more on Cheurfi, here is everything we know about him.










7:45AM

Le Pen and Fillon cancel plans





David Chazan, in Paris, writes:



Marine Le Pen and François Fillon have cancelled their travel plans and will make statements later this morning. Ms Le Pen is to speak at 10 am local time (0900 BST) and Mr Macron at midday (1100 BST). President Hollande is expected to speak after chairing a meeting of his security cabinet beginning at 8am local time (0700 BST ).


Police searched the suspected gunman’s home in the Paris suburb of Chelles overnight. His identity has been verified and confirmed by police and prosecutors but they do not want to make it public because they say they are still determining whether he acted alone or with accomplices wand do not want to compromise the investigation.


However, he has been named as Karim Cheurfi, 39, a French national who was on the terrorist watch list and was sentenced to 20 years in prison in 2003 for the attempted murder of three men, including two policemen. The sentence was reduced to five years in 2005.


Of the four leading candidates in the presidential election, which  begins on Sunday with the first-round vote, Ms Le Pen and Mr Fillon have been campaigning strongly on law-and-order platforms, both promising to get tough on terrorism.


Ms Le Pen has said that if she is elected, she would deport all foreign nationals on the terrorism watch list. Mr Macron and the far-Left candidate, Jean-Luc Mélenchon, may struggle to convince voters of their security and defence credentials.


Mr Macron said in a tweet that, if elected, he would form an anti-Isil task force placed directly under the president's authority.


According to the latest Elabe poll for BFM TV, taken just before the attack, Mr Macron pulled into the lead, on 24 per cent, well ahead of Ms Le Pen, on 21.5 per cent, Mr Fillon with 20 per cent, and Mr Mélenchon on 19.5 per cent.


The Front National did not achieve sustained boosts in popularity after previous attacks.













6:22AM

Champs-Elysees reopening after gun attack





Paris' iconic Champs-Elysees boulevard is reopen and picking up its usual early morning routine on Friday morning.


Municipal workers in white hygiene suits washed down the sidewalk where Thursday night's attack took place. Delivery trucks were making their rounds. Traffic was going up and down the famous tree-lined street and police barriers have been taken down.












5:18AM

Malcolm Turnbull and Mike Pence offer condolences 





Australia's prime minister has offered his country's prayers for the police officers who were shot in Paris and urged Australians in Europe to be wary.


Speaking to Australia's Seven Network, Malcolm Turnbull urged Australian travellers to check for security warnings on the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade website.


He said: "Everywhere - but especially in Europe at the moment - pay close attention to your surroundings."


Mr Turnbull said that  regional security will be among the topics he will discuss with US vice president Mike Pence, who will arrive in Sydney on Friday.


Mr Pence also commented on the shooting, saying it is "latest reminder that terrorism can strike anywhere, anytime." He said that the US "will not relent in our effort to end terrorism."


During a speech to business leaders in Jakarta, Indonesia, Mr Pence said that the people of Paris have "our condolences and our prayers." He said the US will continue to cooperate with the Indonesian government to fight against terrorism.












3:12AM

British embassy in contact with local authorities





The UK Foreign Office said: "The British embassy is in contact with local authorities and urgently seeking further information following reports of a shooting incident on the Champs-Elysees in Paris.


"You should remain vigilant and follow the advice of the local security authorities and/or your tour operator.


"If you're in the area and it is safe to do so, contact your friends and family to tell them you are safe."


A Downing Street spokesman said: "The UK strongly condemns the appalling terrorist attack in Paris. The Prime Minister has tonight passed on her condolences to President Hollande."












1:29AM

Police search address linked to suspect





Police have searched a home in a suburb east of Paris believed linked to the attack on police on the Champs-Elysees, AP reports.


A police document obtained by The Associated Press identifies the address searched in the town of Chelles as the family home of Karim Cheurfi, a 39-year-old with a police record.


Two police officials told The AP that the chief suspect in Thursday's attack is a 39-year-old from an eastern Paris suburb.


Police tape surrounded the quiet, middle-class neighborhood in Chelles early Friday, and worried neighbors expressed surprise at the searches.


Archive reports by French newspaper Le Parisien say that Cheurfi was convicted of attacking a police officer in 2001.








A French soldier stands guard during ongoing police operations
A French soldier stands guard during ongoing police operations

Credit:
EPA














12:05AM

Gunman 'was known by intelligence services for radicalisation' and was 'let go' by anti-terror prosecutors





The 39-year old gunman was known by intelligence services for radicalisation and had previously targeted police 16 years ago in a car chase, when he opened fire on officers, according to reports.


During questioning in a police station, he managed to get hold of a police weapon and fire five times. The policeman survived, but the man was sentence to several years in prison for the attack.


The gunman, who has a previous murder conviction, had recently been detained for questioning in a police station in Meaux, outside Paris, after "informants" had indicated that he was "seeking to obtain weapons to kill policemen", according to reports. 


But due to a lack of evidence, anti-terror prosecutors "let him go".












12:02AM

Another French terror attack carried out by an Islamist extremist known to police





Harriet Alexander reports:



The Champs Elysee attacker, like the majority of France’s terrorists, was believed to be “known to police”.


The man has not been officially identified.


But, the fact he was familiar to authorities, will raise yet more questions about how able Europe’s police forces are to cope with the large number of potential attackers.


It takes at least 20 police to follow one person around the clock: the simple fact is that police have to chose who to follow. And sometimes they make the wrong decision.


All three of the terrorists in the January 2015 Charlie Hebdo attacks – Cherif and Said Kouachi, and Amedy Coulibaly – were known to police.



Read the full article.












11:29PM

'No one knew if it was over or if more attacks were happening, the way they did in 2015'





Another witness, Walid, came out of a café on the Champs-Elysés and saw people running from the scene. “I asked what was wrong and they said there was shooting. I was 50 or 100 metres from the gunman and I started to run with them. Quite quickly we saw a helicopter over the area. Then police cars came and blocked off the area. There were a lot of sirens and flashing lights and people were terrified. No one knew if it was over or if more attacks were happening, the way they did in 2015.”












10:47PM

Attacker 'boasted of wanting to kill police'





According to BFM TV, the attacker had boasted of wanting to kill police on the Telegram messaging service.












10:39PM

Islamic State claim responsibility





The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant terror group have claimed responsibility for the Paris attack.












10:36PM

' A man all in black took out a Kalashnikov and fired'





Cyril, 40, a witness, said: “I was on the corner beside Marks and Spencer and Zara, waiting in my car for a friend, 10 or 15 metres from a police van. I saw a man all in black approaching the van as if he was asking for information, and he took out a Kalashnikov and fired, with his right hand.”


He added: “I started my car and pushed three or four other cars so I could do a U-turn. I’m totally certain he meant to kill the police. He was wearing a big black quileted coat and had hidden the gun under it.”












10:26PM

Hollande: motive 'likely to be terrorism'





President Franois Hollande said: "A national tribute will be paid to this policeman who was killed in such a cowardly way," he said.


"A passerby was hit. The assailant was neutralised by other police officers. The entire area has been cordoned off. The people present have been evacuated."


Mr Hollande said police were convinced that the attack was "terrorist in nature".


François Fillon, the conservative presidential candidate, confirmed on Thursday night that he was cancelling campaign trips on Friday, and added: "The fight against terrorism must be the absolute priority of the next French president."









Hollande: motive 'likely to be terrorism'


Hollande: motive 'likely to be terrorism'


00:59











Forensic teams were filmed combing a car believed to be that of the gunman.


One eye witness said: "It went incredibly fast. It really lasted 30 seconds. There were around 10 people around, and I think that we were very lucky as if there hadn't been police here, it would have been the crowd who took the bullets.


"In the event, it was as confrontation with police, otherwise it would have been a gunman against helpless people.


"The Champs wasn't really full, which was lucky. I just saw that the policemen were instantly on it, and that the gunman was hit straight away."


Another witness said: "He came out of his Audi, he got out a Kalashnikov, I heard six shots fired, we thought it was bangers, then we realised what was happening.. Then I saw the gunman fall."


"He could have targeted us on the pavement and killed several in a volley of bullets, but he went for the police first and they instantly returned fire and he fell down dead."








Police officers block the access of a street near the Champs Elysees in Paris
Police officers block the access of a street near the Champs Elysees in Paris

Credit:
AFP














10:19PM

Gunman 'fired six times then hid behind lorry'





A witness said he saw the gunman fire six times and then hide behind a lorry. “He fired at the police and then he crouched behind the lorry. Then he got up and ran and was shot by the police.”


Forensics officers in white boiler suits with hoods were deployed on the Champs-Elysées.


President Hollande is about to make a statement after chairing a government crisis meeting.  








Police officers take positions near the Champs Elysees avenue in Paris, France, after a fatal shooting in which a police officer was killed along with an attacker
Police officers take positions near the Champs Elysees avenue in Paris, France, after a fatal shooting in which a police officer was killed along with an attacker

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