Belfast Telegraph

Horror on the Champs-Elysees as policeman killed in terror attack

French President Francois Hollande said security forces will be on high alert after a police officer was shot dead and two others injured just three days before the election to find his successor.

Several Presidential candidates last night announced that they had cancelled campaigning scheduled to take today as the nation reeled in shock after the shooting in the centre of Paris last night, which Mr Hollande said he was "convinced" was terror-related.

The attacker opened fire on a police vehicle parked on the Champs-Elysees before he was also shot dead. A car pulled up alongside a police bus just before 7pm and a man got out, firing with an automatic weapon at the bus, French interior ministry spokesman Pierre-Henry Brandet said.

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, Mr Brandet added.

According to BFMTV news channel's sources, the killer was known to the security services and had talked of wanting to kill police officers on the Telegram messaging service.

A French television station hosting a televised event with the 11 candidates running for President briefly interrupted its broadcast to report the shootings. None of the candidates immediately commented.

The world-famous avenue was sealed off last night and nearby stations on the Paris Metro closed as armed officers remained at the scene.

Mr Hollande said he will call a security cabinet meeting this morning, adding that security forces would be on high alert during the forthcoming election.

"We shall be of the utmost vigilance, especially in relation to the election," he said.

Late last night the so-called Islamic State group claimed the attack last night in a post on Twitter. The group claimed in a statement the attacker was Abu Yousef al-Belgiki, who had been living in neighboring Belgium.

The incident comes days before the French election, which is to take place on Sunday.

One Paris resident told Associated Press that the gunfire sent scores of tourists fleeing into side streets.

Badi Ftaiti (55), a Tunisian-born mason who has spent three decades in Paris, said the attack did not panic him.

But he said visitors "were running, running. Some were crying. There were tens, maybe even hundreds of them".

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.

Thousands of troops and police guard tourist areas of the French capital. In February, a man armed with a machete in each hand was wounded after attacking soldiers on patrol at the Louvre Museum.

The UK Foreign Office said: "The British Embassy is in contact with local authorities and urgently seeking further information following reports of a shooting incident on the Champs-Elysees in Paris.

"You should remain vigilant and follow the advice of the local security authorities and/or your tour operator.

"If you're in the area and it is safe to do so, contact your friends and family to tell them you are safe."

France's Prime Minister Bernard Cazeneuve paid tribute to the officer and tweeted that his thoughts are with the family.

US President Donald Trump, speaking at a Press conference in Washington, said the incident "looks like another terrorist attack" and sent his condolences to France.

Steve White, chairman of the Police Federation of England and Wales, tweeted: "The policing family is in mourning yet again."

by STAFF REPORTER AND PA

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