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Security ‘fully mobilised’ after Paris attack

The French government says security is “fully mobilised” after the killing of a police officer in Paris – and days before the country’s presidential election. The attacker shot dead by police on the Champs-Elysees on Thursday evening is believed to be Karim Cheurfi, 39, who had a criminal record.1 A property being searched in the eastern Paris suburb of Chelles is understood to be his home, according to a police document seen by the Associated Press news agency. Belgium’s interior minister has told the country’s VRT broadcaster that the gunman was a French national. Meanwhile, a second suspect wanted in connection with the attack has handed himself in to a police station in Antwerp.

France’s prime minister, Bernard Cazeneuve, said more than 50,000 police and gendarmes, as well as 7,000 soldiers, had been mobilised ahead of Sunday’s vote. “Nothing must hamper this democratic moment, essential for our country,” said Mr Cazeneuve. The attack happened when a car pulled up next to a police van on the famous avenue – which is usually packed with tourists heading to the Arc de Triomphe

Image: A bullet hole in a window on the Champs-Elysees

The gunman got out and immediately shot at officers who were guarding an area near the Franklin Roosevelt metro station. He tried to run along the pavement, aiming at other police and hitting two of them. Other officers opened fire, killing the assailant. As well as the two officers – who doctors now say are out of danger – a woman tourist was also wounded. A pump-action shotgun and knives were found in the gunman’s car. :: Charlie Hebdo to Champs-Elysees – timeline of France terror attacks2

Islamic State claimed it was responsible for the attack and named Abu Yusuf al Beljiki as the attacker – though it is believed this could be a pseudonym. Security has been tight in France, just days before the first round of the presidential election on Sunday.

A witness, who identified himself as Chelloug, said he had heard six shots3. He said: “I thought they were firecrackers . In fact, he (the gunman) was hidden behind the van and shooting at the police.

“I think he hit a policeman . As soon as the policeman opened the door of the van, he fell.” He said he and tourists fled to a shop. “We saw the policeman shoot the gunman who could have killed more of us.” Another witness identified only as Ines told France’s BFM TV she heard a shooting, saw a man’s body on the ground and the area was quickly evacuated. Police were seen pointing their weapons at members of public as they cleared the area.

Image: Two people raise their arms as they walk towards police Image: Emergency services at the scene of the attack

Matthias Fekl, the French interior minister, paid tribute to the dead policeman and praised his colleagues who he said had “prevented a bloodbath”. He said: “Their composure, their perfectly adapted response in the decisive seconds, it all played itself out and prevented a bloodbath that could have been extremely widespread, extremely strong, on the Champs Elysees. “Once again all our thoughts are with the policeman who was assassinated, cowardly, savagely, in a despicable act, an act that shook up our country.”

  1. An armed soldier secures a side road near the Champs-Elysees

  2. Forensics officers search a car on the Champs-Elysees

  3. Police officers block the access to the Champs-Elysees

  4. Police vehicles seen on the Champs-Elysees, near the Arc de Triomphe

  5. People raising their arms as they walk towards police on a side road near the Champs-Elysees

  6. Armed police officers block the access of a street near the Champs-Elysees

  7. An armed police officer on the Champs-Elysees

  8. Police officers searched people in the area after the attack on the Champs-Elysees

  9. Firefighters and rescuers stand by the site of the shooting on the Champs-Elysees

  10. French police vehicles drive in convoy through Paris streets after the shootout

  11. Police vehicles seen near the Eiffel Tower

  12. Police at the scene

  13. Champs-Elysees is locked down in Paris after the attack on police officers

  14. Masked police on top of their vehicle on the Champs-Elysees

  15. Police secure a side street

  16. Emergency services respond to the shooting

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Sky’s Mark White said: “Two men were arrested a few days ago with an arsenal of weapons . And that there was a concern that an attack was being planned to coincide with the French election.”

Several candidates in Sunday’s presidential election ended their campaigns early as a mark of respect, with the centre-right’s Francois Fillon calling on others to do the same. Far-right candidate Marine Le Pen has called for the government to immediately expel foreigners being monitored by the intelligence services and reinstate France’s borders.

References

  1. ^ believed to be Karim Cheurfi, 39, who had a criminal record. (news.sky.com)
  2. ^ :: Charlie Hebdo to Champs-Elysees – timeline of France terror attacks (news.sky.com)
  3. ^ six shots (news.sky.com)