French police tighten election security after Paris shooting attack
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Investigations are ongoing into a suspected terror attack on Paris’ Champs-Elysees, which killed one police officer and injured three others, including a German tourist. The French PM described it as an attack on Europe.
Paris’ Champs-Elysees boulevard reopened early on Friday, picking up its usual morning routine after a gunman opened fire on police late on Thursday, killing one police officer and injuring at least two others.
A spokesperson for the German Foreign Office also confirmed that a female German tourist was injured in the attack. In a tweet expressing its condolences, the Foreign Office said it would remain standing shoulder-to-shoulder with France.
The assailant, identified as 39-year-old Karim Cheurfi, was shot dead by nearby police officers. Paris prosecutors leading the investigation have since detained three of the suspected gunman’s family members for questioning. A note which praised Islamic State (IS) and named Cheurfi, as one of its “fighters” was found near the attacker, bolstering the jihadi group’s claim that it was responsible for the shooting.
Hours after the attack, a second man, who Belgian authorities had flagged to their French counterparts over possible involvement in the shooting, turned himself into police in Belgium’s northern city of Antwerp.
According to authorities, however, there was no link between the man and the Paris attack. A prosecutor in Antwerp said: “That man came to police late yesterday after he saw himself appear on social media as the number one terror suspect, relating to yesterday’s facts.
“He was not part of a terrorism investigation,” the Belgian prosecutor added.
Speaking after a government security council meeting on Friday morning, French Prime Minister Bernard Cazeneuve said, “Barbarity and cowardice struck Paris last night, as they also recently struck elsewhere in Europe – in Berlin, Stockholm, in London.”
“The whole of Europe is targeted because it represents the values and ideals of peace,” Cazeneuve added.
Looking ahead to Sunday’s first round of presidential elections, the prime minister said more than 50,000 police and gendarmes had been mobilized to protect the election process. Some 7,000 additional soldiers will also be on patrol.
“Nothing must hamper this democratic moment, essential for our country,” Cazeneuve said.
The 11 presidential candidates were appearing on television on Thursday evening, making their final election pitches to voters, as the assault happened, shortly before 9 p.m. local time (1900 UTC).
Reacting to Thursday night’s attack, far-right candidate Marine Le Pen, who has been campaigning on a hardline anti-EU, anti-immigration platform, called on the government to immediately expel foreigners monitored by intelligence services.
“We need to close our borders,” she said, describing “IS” as a group which had “declared war.”
Prime Minister Cazeneuve condemned Le Pen’s rhetoric, claiming that the National Front (FN) leader was looking to exploit the shooting to score political points and divide people “without any shame.” He added that there was nothing in the shooting investigation linking immigration to the incident.
Conservative candidate Francois Fillon, meanwhile, said that the fight against “Islamist totalitarianism” should be a priority of the next French president.
“I intend to fight with an iron fist,” Fillon says, promising to maintain France’s state of emergency.
Similar to Le Pen, Fillon, also vowed to expel any foreign Islamic fundamentalists and dissolve Salafist and Muslim Brotherhood movements.
“From Washington to Moscow, I will take the diplomatic initiative to create an international coalition against Islamist terrorism,” he said.