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Election candidates warned of security risks

Most candidates running in the General Election will have little in the way of enhanced protection during the campaign unless they raise specific concerns with the police, security sources have told Sky News. The National Police Chiefs Council (NPCC) says it is writing to all of the country’s MPs and setting out crucial security advice and guidance in the run-up to 8 June. Although there is no direct intelligence of election-related threats, there is an increasing sense of nervousness among authorities in the wake of the terror attack in Westminster and last week’s shooting of police officers in Paris ahead of the French presidential elections. The NPCC, which represents all 43 police forces in England and Wales, said: “Where particular concerns are raised local police will work with constituency offices to review security and put in place appropriate measures.

“This vigilance message applies to all of the candidates and their team members who will be out campaigning over the coming weeks.”

Image: Dr Lisa Cameron MP says she is taking ‘sensible precautions’ after receiving death threats

Security surrounding the Prime Minister and other senior political figures has been visibly enhanced since the Westminster attack. Theresa May has signalled her determination to join the campaign trail and canvass in local communities. Although this brings extra risks, the Prime Minister will at least have added protection . Most other candidates will not. The MP for East Kilbride, Lisa Cameron, was subjected to death threats last year . She said they had spurred her into making sure she and her colleagues take “sensible precautions” as they begin their campaigns.

“There are vulnerabilities and you have to be able to be aware and acknowledge that, once you’ve got that insight you can be aware of risk management,” she said. “Given the incidents that have occurred, those types of interactions are going to have to be done in a way to minimise risk . You can’t totally eradicate risk but it should never stop MPs or candidates engaging with constituents.”

The murder of Labour MP Jo Cox in her West Yorkshire constituency last year led to a reappraisal of security. Naz Shah, the MP for Bradford West, has also suffered death threats in the past year – and said there was always an element of risk in an open democracy but that extremists should not be allowed to win. She said: “We have been given extra advice on carrying lone worker devices when we are out and about, and yes, that risk increases when we are out in the constituency. “One of the things about democracy is about being in touch directly with people.”

Former Scotland Yard firearms officer Roger Gray said the recent events in Westminster and Paris will certainly have focused the minds of the police and security officials as the UK’s election gets under way. He added: “What we saw just a few weeks ago was dreadful but it’s very difficult to calculate for . One thing we do have in the run-up to the election is heightened awareness, so if something happens it won’t be a complete bolt from the blue as that was . And the public will be vital in helping the authorities track any potential risk.”

Chief constables are currently liaising with politicians who have had threats in the past, and all candidates are being urged to ensure police know about their planned events.

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)