Paris continues to be a priority target for extremists.
Pierre-Henry Brandet, a spokesman for the French Interior Ministry, said, “A man jumped out and opened fire on a police vehicle. On the face of it, the officers were deliberately targeted.” One eyewitness said, “I heard two or three shots… then there was just panic all around.”
In the attack, one policeman was killed and two others wounded. According to French police, a car pulled up alongside a police bus just before 21:00 (19:00 GMT), and a man got out and opened fire with an automatic weapon. After killing an officer, he attempted to run away while shooting at other officers, two of whom he injured. He was then shot dead by security forces.
The Champs-Elysees, the area where the attack occurred, was sealed off. President Francois Hollande said that he was convinced the attack was “terrorist-related” after ISIS said that one of its “fighters” had carried out the attack.
Paris prosecutor Francois Molins later said, “The attacker’s identity is known and has been verified. I won’t reveal it because investigations and raids are already under way, in particular, to establish whether there is any evidence or not of complicity in this attack.”
Meanwhile, ISIS identified the attacker in a statement carried by its Amaq news outlet. In a statement from Amaq, ISIS named the attacker as Abu Yousef Al-Baljiki, “The Belgian,” adding that he was “one of the Islamic State fighters.”
The claim of responsibility came unusually quickly for the group. It also referred to the attacker as one of the “fighters,” rather than “soldiers” of the Islamic State. Typically, ISIS refers to lone wolf attackers as “soldiers.” Islamist militancy is a major issue in the polls after recent mass attacks claimed by ISIS, with 238 people killed in jihadist attacks in France since 2015, according to data from the AFP news agency.
French President Hollande said, after crisis talks with his prime minister and interior minister, the security forces had the full support of the nation, and a national tribute would be paid to the fallen policeman. He said he would hold a meeting of his security cabinet on Friday morning.
The whole of the Champs-Elysees was evacuated, and police vehicles were lined up near a point half way up the avenue around the George V metro station. Shots were heard near the Marks & Spencer store, provoking a panicked rush away from the scene by tourists and passers-by. Because of its worldwide renown and its large number of visitors, the Champs-Elysees has long been seen as a potential target.
Witnesses interviewed by AFP recounted scenes of panic as people ran for cover and sought shelter. “We had to hide our customers in the basement,” said Choukri Chouanine, manager of a restaurant near the site of the shooting.
While noting that he had only just seen coverage of the still-developing event before entering a press conference with Italian Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni, Trump said it was a “very terrible thing that’s going on in the world today. We have to be strong, and we have to be vigilant, and I’ve been saying this for a very long time,” he added.