By Hajer M’tiri
PARIS (AA): One police officer was killed and two others were seriously injured Thursday when a gunman opened fire at a police patrol on the famous Champs-Elysees boulevard here, according to the Interior Ministry. Daesh has claimed responsibility.
A male suspect got out of a car and directly targeted police, ministry spokesman Pierre Henry Brandet said, adding that the driver was believed to be on the loose.
Brandet said the attacker used an automatic weapon and aimed at a parked police van before he was killed by other police officers at the scene.
He dismissed reports that claimed the shooting was an armed robbery gone wrong.
“I can tell you that according to the initial findings police were targeted directly,” he said in a statement.
The city’s anti-terrorist prosecutors have opened a probe into the shooting.
“The investigation has been entrusted to the Anti-Terrorist Section (SAT) of the Criminal Brigade and the Directorate General of Internal Security (DGSI),” Paris chief prosecutor’s office said in a statement.
The suspect was arrested in February on suspicion of plotting to kill officers but was released because of lack of evidence.
The tourist area has been evacuated and closed off. Several police cars and helicopters have been dispatched to the scene.
He fled on foot before the driver of the other car and the passenger — a trainee police officer — caught up with him. He fired twice, seriously wounding both men in the chest.
He was arrested and placed in custody under a false name.
Two days later he seriously injured an officer who was taking him out of his cell, seizing his weapon and firing several times.
Officials have refused to name the Champs-Elysees shooter and are trying to establish if he had accomplices for the attack, which sent people running for their lives on the world-famous street.
Paris Police Prefecture and the Interior Ministry said on Twitter that an operation was ongoing and warned civilians to avoid the Champs-Elysees area.
All metro stations at the venue have also been locked down.
President Francois Hollande told the nation a conclusion could me drawn that the shooting was a “terrorist” attack.
He also indicated he will convene a defense council to meet Friday morning. “A national homage will be paid to this policeman who was cowardly murdered,” Hollande said, and security services will be “absolutely vigilant” to secure the presidential election.
Following Hollande’s address, Daesh claimed responsibility for the shooting.
In Washington, U.S. President Donald Trump offered his condolences after what he said “looks like another terrorist attack”.
“That’s a terrible thing and it’s a very, very terrible thing that’s going on in the world today,” he said at a joint press conference with Italian Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni. “We have to be strong and we have to be vigilant.”
Gentiloni echoed Trump’s comments in remarks translated from Italian, saying “this is a very delicate period for” the French people.
The attack comes three days ahead of the first round of the presidential election to choose two candidates for a run-off May 7.
*Michael Hernandez contributed to this report from Washington.
Additional report from The Muslim News
[Photo: French security forces cordon the area after a gunman attack, killing a police officer at Champs Elysees in Paris, France on April 20, 2017. One police officer was killed and two others were seriously injured. Photographer: Muhabiri Raphael Lafargue/AA]