PARIS: The plaza outside the Louvre Museum in Paris, where French presidential frontrunner Emmanuel Macron plans a victory party if elected, was briefly evacuated on Sunday (May 7) following a security alert, sources said. A spokesman for Macron’s movement said the alert was due to a “suspicious package.” The check was completed around 1230 GMT. A police source said the area was cordoned off and searched by a police team “simply to banish any doubts.” Several hundred journalists who have been accredited for the post-election rally were asked to briefly move away from the site.
The Louvre, the most visited museum in the world, is situated on the banks of the River Seine in the heart of Paris. The plaza is the square between the two long arms of the building, where its famous glass pyramid entrance is located. The second-round vote in France’s presidential election is taking place amid tight security, with tens of thousands of police and troops mounting guard. A string of jihadist attacks since January 2015 have left at least 230 dead and hundreds injured. On February 3, a 29-year-old Egyptian wielding knives attacked troops patrolling the underground access to Louvre .
He was shot and wounded by the patrol. On April 20, three days before the first round of the presidential poll, a policeman was shot dead on the Champs-Elysees avenue, in an attack claimed by the Islamic State (IS) group. On Friday, a suspected extremist was detained near a military base outside Paris.
Guns were discovered as well as a pledge of allegiance to IS and several of the group’s flags, sources close to the case told AFP.
Two police officers and gunman are dead following a Paris shooting incident (AP Photo/Thibault Camus)
A gunman who killed a Paris police officer, and seriously wounded another two, before being shot dead was known to security services . It comes after the suspect opened fire on the police while they were stationed at the Champs-Elysees earlier tonight. It is understood the assailant stepped out of a car at a red light and opened fire with a Kalashnikov machine gun, also known as an AK-47.
One officer have been confirmed dead, with two wounded, as has their assailant. Police have confirmed they are now searching the attacker s home. The French Interior Ministry has said it is too early to say what the motive behind the attack was, but have said officers were deliberately attacked.
The counter-terror office has opened a preliminary investigation into the attack, but there has also been speculation that it could have been related to an armed robbery attempt. Paris police spokeswoman Johanna Primevert said that the attacker targeted police guarding the area near the Franklin Roosevelt subway station. A witness identified only as Ines told French television station BFM that she heard a shooting, saw a man s body on the ground and the area was quickly evacuated by police.
The attack comes three days before the first round of France s tense presidential election. A televised debate with all 11 presidential candidates was being broadcast when the attack took place. Security is high around the vote after France has been attacked in recent years.
Most recently, soldiers providing security at prominent locations were attacked in separate incidents one at the Louvre museum in February and one at Orly airport last month.
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UK authorities are facing an increased terror threat from battle-hardened fighters returning from Mosul and other conflict zones in Iraq and Syria. Security sources have told Sky News more than 400 former fighters are now believed to be back in Britain. The authorities believe there is a growing risk the UK could suffer the kind of mass gun and bomb attacks seen in France and Belgium recently, as many returning fighters will have been trained in the use of weapons and the construction of improvised explosive devices. It is a serious, two-pronged challenge for the police and security services, who are already working flat-out to counter the threat from homegrown lone-wolf extremists, like Khalid Masood, who launched last week’s deadly attack on Westminster.
Former Scotland Yard Specialist Firearms Officer and author Tony Long said combating an attack launched by a well-trained returning jihadist could be a tough prospect. He said: “These are combat-hardened soldiers . They might not be trained in the way that NATO might train their soldiers but they’ve seen more close quarter conflict and more urban fighting than probably most members of the British Armed Forces and you have to respect that.
“Of course they’re bringing that knowledge back with them to the UK and it’s very very difficult because of the legal restrictions that are put on the security services and the police to actually monitor all of these people.”
To date, only a fraction of those returning from the battlefields of Syria and Iraq have been prosecuted, as authorities need enough evidence to put before the courts and often returning fighters go to great lengths to cover up their overseas activities. Imran Khawaja, 29, from west London, is currently serving 12 years in prison after he faked his own death in Syria in an attempt to sneak back into the UK undetected. Khawaja had joined a militant group with links to so-called Islamic State while overseas. He was pictured posing with the severed heads of Syrian soldiers during his six months in the country. He was arrested as he tried to re-enter the UK through the port of Dover and later admitted preparing for acts of terrorism, attending a camp, receiving training and possessing firearms.
Security sources said they could not be certain that Khawaja would have launched an attack back home, but the pattern of returning jihadists posing a major risk to national security is well established. More than a decade ago, groups of al Qaeda trained terrorists were responsible for mass carnage in Europe and the United States. Those who launched the devastating attack on the London transport system on 7 July 2005 had attended al Qaeda training camps in Pakistan and Afghanistan. Some of the terrorists who launched a similar failed attack on London on 21 July 2005 had received weapons and explosives training, as had some of the plotters who planned to blow up airliners with liquid bombs in 2006. :: Traumatised children of Mosul2
Security expert Professor Tahir Abbas from the Royal United Services Institute said: “The police and security services are certainly preparing for all eventualities, because in Britain, we’ve had our lessons from the past. “These returning fighters pose a number of threats in relation to security here. “They’ve been through a lot of very traumatic conflict and engagement, often involved in street-to-street fighting.
“Now, having made their way back to Britain, they pose a particular threat because of their capacity – and perhaps they’ve been instructed to return, hold fire and wait for the go ahead to launch attacks.
“They are likely to be traumatised, but also extremely experienced and well trained individuals who pose a serious risk.” With the growing threat from returning fighters, emergency services have been increasing their training to respond to gun and bomb attacks. On March 19, more than 200 police officers carried out a training exercise on the River Thames, where police firearms teams boarded a boat in a training scenario involving dozens of hostages. The UK government has provided millions of pounds in extra funding to help Chief Constables across country to increase their firearms capability to respond to a terrorist attack.