A gunman using an assault rifle on Thursday night killed a police officer on the city’s most popular boulevard, the Paris Champs Elysées. This attack is electrifying France’s worst fears of a terrorist attack, which could tip voting this Sunday’s presidential polls.
The gunman was shot dead by the police as he tried to flee the scene – two other police officers and a tourist were wounded. The police quickly blocked access to the attack area as a helicopter hovered overhead. The attack set off panic and a scramble for shelter while officers began searching for possible accomplices after the attack.
A car pulled up alongside a police bus just before 21:00 (19:00 GMT) and a man got out, opening fire on the bus with an automatic weapon, Interior Ministry spokesman Pierre-Henry Brandet said.
After killing an officer, the man attempted to run away while shooting at other officers, two of whom he injured, the spokesman added.
The Paris Champs Elysées and the Arc de Triomphe was evacuated and underground public transport “Metro” stations were closed.
Close to midnight, President François Hollande said in an address to the nation that the attack appeared to be an act of terrorism. The Islamic State claimed responsibility in a message posted on a jihadi channel and identified the attacker as Abu-Yusuf al-Baljiki, in a statement carried by its Amaq news outlet.
The gunman has been identified by the french authorities from papers left in his car, but officials are yet to release his name. Local media reports say the 39-year-old lived in the city’s suburbs, and had been seen as a potential Islamist radical.
President Francois Hollande will chair a security cabinet meeting Friday.
Overnight, a property in the eastern Parisian suburb of Chelles was searched by investigators, who are investigating to know who else could be involved.
According to French media sources, the attacker had already served several years in prison for firing at police officers with a gun in the early 2000s. Recently the intelligence services had identified him as a potential Islamist and was listed as “Fiche S”.
In France, an S card is a fact sheet of the file of dangerous persons. The letter S is the abbreviation of “State Security”. The S cards are mainly issued by the Directorate General of Homeland Security (DGSI).
At the White House, US President Donald Trump said people had to be strong and vigilant. “Our condolences from our country to the people of France,” he said. “It looks like another terrorist attack and… what can you say? It just never ends.”
In the UK, a Downing Street spokesman said: “The UK strongly condemns the appalling terrorist attack in Paris. The Prime Minister, Theresa May, has tonight passed on her condolences to President Hollande.”
German Chancellor Angela Merkel spoke of remaining “strong and determined” alongside France.
Source: French local medias / official news releases