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Posted at: Apr 21, 2017, 10:23 PM; last updated: Apr 21, 2017, 10:23 PM (IST)

Fears shroud French election after Champs Elysees attack

Fears shroud French election after Champs Elysees attack
A man leaves flowers on the Champs Elysees Avenue the day after a policeman was killed and two others were wounded in a shooting incident in Paris. Reuters

Paris, April 21

The killing of a policeman on Paris’s Champs Elysees claimed by the Islamic State group rocked France’s presidential race on Friday with just two days to go before voting in the closest election for decades.

Bloodshed had long been feared ahead of Sunday’s first round of the election after a string of attacks since 2015, and the shooting propelled the jihadist threat to the fore.

A note praising Islamic State (IS) was found near the body of the 39-year-old French attacker, who shot dead one officer and wounded two others before being killed by police.

The note bolstered IS’s claim that the perpetrator, named as Karim Cheurfi, was one of its “fighters”.

After opening fire just a few hundred metres from the Arc de Triomphe monument, the gunman was shot dead while trying to flee on foot. A foreign tourist was slightly wounded by shrapnel.

In addition to the note praising IS, authorities found a Koran in the attacker’s vehicle.

A statement by IS’s propaganda agency Amaq said the attacker was one of its “fighters”, identifying him as “Abu Yussef the Belgian”.

But French authorities named him as Karim Cheurfi, a Frenchman living in the Paris suburbs.

The IS claim raised initial concerns that a possible second attacker could be on the loose.

Today, French authorities said a man sought by Belgium police, who was suspected of having planned to travel to France yesterday, had handed himself in at a police station in the Belgian city of Antwerp.

French interior ministry spokesman Pierre-Henry Brandet said it was “too early to say” if the man was linked to yesterday’s shooting.

Cheurfi was known to anti-terror police, sources told AFP. He had been arrested in February on suspicion of plotting to kill police officers but released because of a lack of evidence.

He had been convicted in 2005 of three counts of attempted murder, two involving police officers, sources said.

Three people known to him were being questioned by police.

France has been under a state of emergency for nearly a year and a half, with more than 230 people killed in jihadist attacks since the start of 2015.

The offices of Charlie Hebdo magazine were hit in January 2015, IS gunmen and suicide bombers killed 130 people in Paris the following November, and a Tunisian man rammed a truck through crowds in Nice last July, killing 86 people. — AFP

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