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

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 - Credit: APForensic 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 - Credit: APForensic 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 - Credit: EPAA 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!”

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.”

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.”

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 - Credit: THOMAS SAMSON/AFP/Getty ImagesFrench Prime Minister Bernard Cazeneuve speaks next to Interior Minister Matthias Fekl (L) and Justice Minister Jean-Jacques Urvoas - Credit: THOMAS SAMSON/AFP/Getty Images

 

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 - Credit: AP PhotoKarim 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 - Credit: EPAA 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.”

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 - Credit: AFPPolice 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 - Credit: APPolice 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 - Credit: AP

 

10:16PM

How terrorism in France is having a huge impact on presidential election

Henry Samuelwrites:

While the motives of the Champs-Elysées gunman remained unconfirmed, the timing just three days before the first round of presidential elections and during a prime time TV “debate” between all 11 official candidates clearly raises the question that extremists are seeking to influence the tone of the debate.

Already in a state of emergency, France’s security apparatus has been on maximum alert in recent days. Intelligence agents have been in a race against time to shut down clear and present threats to the personal security of several of the main candidates, reportedly most prominent among them François Fillon, the conservative candidate.

Two men were arrested in Marseille on Tuesday with guns and bomb materials, and were in the final stages of preparing “several” attacks, according  to French reports. 

The arrests coincided with a toughening of the discourse of Marine Le Pen, the far-Right Front National candidate, who gave her hardest-line speeches of the campaign in Paris on Monday and then again in Marseille on Wednesday night. In those she insisted that the past two administrations, both Left and Right, had failed to take the Islamist threat seriously.

The Paris terror attacks, she said, would not have occurred had she been in power as several of the assailants who killed 130 took the migrant route to enter the country illegally. She threatened to effectively shut French borders, promising to draft in army reservists to do so, placing a temporary “moratorium” on legal immigration and then only allowing 10,000 in a year after that.

Although polls suggest Ms Le Pen is on track to come in the top two of Sunday’s first round vote, along with centrist Emmanuel Macron, political analysts have suggested that Ms Le Pen has been losing steam in recent days and that her campaign has failed to capitalise on early leads. 

She will surely seek to claw back support after this latest attack by insisting that France requires a more authoritarian regime. She commands signifiant support from within the French police, which lost an officer on Thursday night.

Read the full article.

10:02PM

‘War weapon’ used in attack

A French government spokesman says the Paris assailant used a “war weapon” to fire on officers. 

10:00PM

‘Arrest warrant for second suspect who arrived by train from Belgium issued’

Police have issued an arrest warrant for a second suspect who arrived from Belgium by train, police sources have told Reuters.

 

9:57PM

Police now state the second officer was not killed

Pierre-Henry Brandet, the interior ministry spokesman, has said one police officer was killed and two seriously wounded. He said reports of two dead were incorrect. The attacker has not been identified, he said.

He also said there was only one shooting and reports of a second were incorrect.

Mr Brandet said police had a name for the gunman and it matched a suspect known to security services but the attacker’s fingerprints had not been matched with those of the suspect.

He confirmed that the attacker was shot dead as he tried to run away.

Police officers block the access of a street near the Champs Elysees in Paris - Credit: AFPPolice officers block the access of a street near the Champs Elysees in Paris - Credit: AFP

 

9:40PM

Tributes paid to police officers

François Fillon, the scandal-hit conservative presidential candidate, also paid tribute to the police officers, as did Benoit Hamon, the Socialist contender.

9:34PM

Police helicopter searching central Paris for suspects

A police helicopter was patrolling the area. A police source said it was equipped with a huge searchlight to help track down any attackers that might be on the run.

Bernard Cazeneuve, the prime minister, has joined President Hollande at the Elysée Palace for an emergency meeting.

9:31PM

Champs Elysees on high alert

Police secure the Champs Elysee Avenue  - Credit: ReutersPolice secure the Champs Elysee Avenue  - Credit: Reuters
A police officer stands guard after the fatal shooting - Credit: APA police officer stands guard after the fatal shooting - Credit: AP

 

9:27PM

Attacker’s home being searched

Security forces are searching the home of the dead gunman in the east of Paris.

9:24PM

Second policeman dies of wounds

The second policeman injured in shooting has died of his wounds, police sources told Reuters.

President Hollande has called an emergency security meeting.

9:23PM

Anti-terror police open investigation

Anti-terrorist prosecutors have opened an investigation, indicating that the motive is believed to have been terrorism, and the attacker was known to the intelligence services, security sources said.   

Mr Brandet, the interior ministry spokesman, confirmed that one police officer was killed and another was fighting for his life after being seriously wounded.

9:21PM

Police: dead suspect ‘was known to security services’

Reports that the gunman killed was known to police.

9:14PM

BREAKING Shots fired at new location near Champs Elysees

Police sources tell Reuters there is a second shooting in the area.

9:10PM

‘Several assailants in attack’

According to FranceTV Info, there were several assailants, some of whom were still at large.

9:09PM

Trump: ‘It never ends’

The US president has said: “It looks like another terrorist attack. What can you say? It never ends.”

 

9:08PM

Footage from the scene

 

9:04PM

Robbery took place at same time as shooting

Pierre-Henry Brandet, the interior ministry spokesman, said one police officer was killed and two seriously wounded.

“The attacker was shot dead by police and the area remains cordoned off,” Mr Brandet said. 

A car stopped near a police van before the attack and was found abandoned. It was suspected that the gunman used it to reach the scene of the attack.

Mr Brandet said a robbery may have been carried out at the same time as the attack. It was unclear if the two were linked. 

He said several Métro stations had been closed while police make sure the area is safe.

Ambulances and police vans were seen parked in the middle of the Champs-Elysées near the Arc de Triomphe, with their blue lights flashing, and forensics officers were also at the scene.

8:58PM

Champs Elysees remains sealed off, metro not stopping

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8:56PM

Attack comes just three days before presidential election

The attack came three days before the first round of balloting in France’s tense presidential election. Security is high preceding the vote after police said they arrested two men Tuesday in what they described as a thwarted terror attack.

The two terror suspects were arrested in Marseille on Tuesday and found an arsenal of weapons and bomb-making equipment in their flat along with an Islamic State (Isil) flag.

It quickly emerged that police had been watching the pair for several weeks before they finally detained them on suspicion of plotting “an imminent and violent attack” in the run-up to Sunday’s first-round vote.

8:49PM

‘Nothing is being ruled out’

Yvan Assioma of the police union Alliance said:

The exact circumstances are still unclear but I can confirm the tragic death of one of our colleagues. Our thoughts are very much with the family. One or several attackers have been shot dead by the police. Some officers were hit but the bullets were stopped by their bulletproof vests, but two were hit.

Nothing is being ruled out for the time being, terrorism or a criminal act.

8:48PM

Details of attack emerging

One of the suspects got out of a car and began shooting “with a Kalashnikov”, hitting a policeman, an eyewitness has told Reuters.

The officer killed was apparently in a car stopped at a red light.

8:46PM

Helicopters flying low over city centre

Hundreds of heavily-armed officers are out in force on the Champs Elysees and around the Place de la Concorde.

8:39PM

At least two attackers in Paris shooting

Police state there were at least two people involved in the shooting, one of them has been killed.

8:35PM

 Shooting happened near Franklin D Roosevelt metro station

The shooting happened near the Métro station Franklin D Roosevelt and the Marks and Spencer store on the Champs-Elysées.

Shops closed their shutters and restaurants locked their doors. Customers remained inside.

8:31PM

Suspect shot dead

The person who fired at police in Paris has been killed, police sources told Reuters.

8:30PM

Police officer killed in central Paris shooting

One of the police officers shot at on Champs Elysees has died, reports said.

The centre of the city is in lockdown.

The wide pavements of the iconic avenue were deserted after the shooting and police urged the public to avoid the area.

People ran for cover and witnesses reported seeing people in tears near the scene.

8:27PM

Reports of police officers being shot at in central Paris

Two police officers have been shot in central Paris, according to reports.

Officers were also investigating a “suspicious package”.

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