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TERRORISM

Paris: French police officer killed in terrorist shooting on Champs Elysées

A French police officer was killed on Thursday and another left fighting for his life after an apparent terrorist shooting on the famous Champs Elysées avenue just days before the first round of the presidential election.

Paris: French police officer killed in terrorist shooting on Champs Elysées
Photo: AFP

A gunman opened fire on police officers on the famous avenue in the west of Paris around 9pm on Thursday evening when the boulevard was packed with shoppers, restaurant goers and tourists.

One officer was killed and two others injured, at least one them critically. 

The shooter was also killed at the scene, police confirmed, with sources telling French media he was already known to intelligence services for having already expressed a desire to kill police officers.

He has been named as 39-year-old 'Karim C', who was born in France, according to report in France. His home was raided shortly after the attack.

A spokesman for the ministry of interior said the shooter pulled up in a car next to a police car and opened fire, before trying to flee on foot.

He injured two more officers before he was killed when a group of police officers on patrol fired back, said Pierre-Henry Brandet.

“This is a tragedy for the police and a tragedy for France,” he said adding that Parisians are advised to stay away from the area. He urged caution over the identity of the gunman.

Not long after President François Hollande said that the shooting was a suspected terrorist attack, Isis claimed responsibility.

One witness told BFM TV he saw the man pull out a kalashnikov before opening fire.

“As soon as we realized he was shooting we ran into a shop and ran upstairs and saw out of the window the police shoot him dead,” said the unnamed witness.

France's counter-terrorist investigators have been placed in charge of the investigation, suggesting authorities are in little doubt the shooting is just the latest in a series of terror attacks against France and in particular its capital city in recent years.

This latest attack comes just days before France goes to the polls for the first round of the presidential election.

The Local's Oliver Gee said: “There are extremely tense scenes around the Champs Elysees as police cordon off all the roads nearby.

“There are helicopters overhead and police are treating anyone driving or walking in the area with extreme caution.

“They are searching everyone and pulling out their weapons at the sign of anything suspicious. They are on edge and the public are confused and worried.”

Photo: AFP

The shooter opened fire with a kalashnikov near the Marks & Spencer store on the famous shopping shopping boulevard that is popular with tourists.

“We were in a restaurant just off the Champs Elysées and we were told by the owner we couldn't go out. There was a terror attack, they said. There were police everywhere,” a Vietnamese man named Tran told The Local.
 
“We were locked inside because police confirmed the attack. We were not scared because we were upstairs and not in the street. After an hour an a half we came down in a group with police and were taken to safety. 
 
TV images on BFM TV showed the flashing lights of police vans along the avenue up to the famous Arc de Triomphe, while police were seen telling members of the public to move away from the area.

 

Witnesses told BFM TV the avenue as well as surrounding streets have been cordoned off. A police helicopter hovered overhead.

“At first we thought it was firecrackers but then we realized it was a shooting and everyone ran in panic. People were crying,” one shopkeeper told BFM TV. 

“The area was cleared really quickly.”

France has been on high alert for terrorism after attacks in Nice and Paris in recent years claimed over 230 victims.

On Tuesday two men were arrested in Marseille on suspicion of planning various attacks around the presidential election.

French police officers have been the subject of numerous jihadist attacks, including one to north of Paris in summer last year when two officers were killed at their home in front of their son.  French soldiers have also been targeted.

Thousands of troops and armed police have been deployed to guard tourist hotspots such as the Champs Elysees or other potential targets like government buildings and religious sites.

Up until now, polls showed voters more concerned about unemployment and their spending power than terrorism or security, though analysts warned this would change in the event of further bloodshed.

READ ALSO: Champs Elysées attack just latest to target soldiers and police in France

TERRORISM

US vice president lays wreaths at site of 2015 Paris terror attacks

US Vice President Kamala Harris and French Prime Minister Jean Castex laid wreaths at a Paris cafe and France's national football stadium Saturday six years since deadly terror attacks that left 130 people dead.

US vice president lays wreaths at site of 2015 Paris terror attacks
US Vice President Kamala Harris and her husband Doug Emhoff lay flowers after ceremonies at Le Carillon bar and Le Petit Cambodge restaurant, at which 130 people were killed during the 2015 Paris terror attacks. Photo: Sarahbeth Maney/POOL/AFP

The attacks by three separate teams of Islamic State group jihadists on the night of November 13, 2015 were the worst in France since World War II.

Gunmen mowed down 129 people in front of cafes and at a concert hall in the capital, while a bus driver was killed after suicide bombers blew themselves up at the gates of the stadium in its suburbs.

Harris, wrapping up a four-day trip to France, placed a bouquet of white flowers in front of a plaque honouring the victims outside a Paris cafe.

Castex attended a minute of silence at the Stade de France football stadium, along with Paris mayor Anne Hidalgo, before laying wreaths at the sites of the other attacks inside Paris.

In front of the Bataclan concert hall, survivors and relatives of the victims listened to someone read out the names of each of the 90 people killed during a concert there six years ago.

Public commemorations of the tragedy were called off last year because of the coronavirus pandemic.

“Last year we weren’t allowed to come and we all found it really tough,” said Bruno Poncet, who made it out alive of the Bataclan.

But he said the start of a trial over the attacks in September meant that those attending the commemoration this year felt more united.

‘Overcome it all’

“We’ve really bonded thanks to the trial,” he said. “During previous commemorations, we’d spot each other from afar without really daring to speak to each other. We were really shy. But standing up in court has really changed everything.”

The marathon trial, the biggest in France’s modern legal history, is expected to last until May 2022.

Twenty defendants are facing sentences of up to life in prison, including the sole attacker who was not gunned down by police, Salah Abdeslam, a French-Moroccan national who was captured in Brussels. Six of the defendants are being tried in absentia.

Poncet said he felt it was crucial that he attend the hearings. “I can’t possibly not. It’s our lives that are being discussed in that room, and it’s important to come to support the others and to try to overcome it all.”

Survivors have taken to the witness stand to recount the horror of the attacks, but also to describe life afterwards.

Several said they had been struggling with post-traumatic stress disorder, grappling with survivor’s guilt, or even feeling alienated from the rest of society.

Saturday’s commemorations are to wrap up with a minute of silence at the Stade de France in the evening before the kick-off for a game between France and Kazakhstan.

It was during a football match between France and Germany that three suicide bombers blew themselves up in 2015.

Then-French president Francois Hollande was one of the 80,000 people in the crowd, before he was discreetly whisked away to avoid triggering mass panic.

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