Avenue des Champs Elysees, Paris, by Luca Margheriti (2008, CC3) [800px]

ISIS Behind Paris Terrorist Attack

Islamic Terrorist Shoots Dead French Policeman in Paris

A man with a Kalashnikov has opened fire on French police officers on the Champs-Élysées, Paris. At 9 pm Thursday, April 20, a man armed with an AK-47 fired into a parked police vehicle, hitting three police officers inside, one of them fatally. He then attempted to escape on foot before being shot dead by responding officers. A bystander was also wounded.

Associated Press claimed that the dead terrorist was Karim Cheurfi. CNN reported that he was already known to French police and security services. Voice of America reported that a handwritten note praising Islamic State (aka ISIS, ISIL, Daesh) was found near the gunman. A shotgun and a knife were also found in the attacker’s car.

Terrorist Had Been Jailed for Attempted Murder

At a trial in 2003, reported Le Parisien, Cheurfi was found guilty of the attempted murder of two police officers following a car chase in 2001, and of another officer while in custody. He was sentenced to 20 years imprisonment, a judgement that should have seen him still behind bars. It is unknown why and when he was relewased early. In addition to attempted murder, Cheurfi had an extensive criminal record.

Cheurfi was also arrested in February 2017 as part of a counter-terror investigation, reportedly for threatening police officers. The next day, he was released by the court due to insufficient evidence.

Earlier Marseilles Terrorist Attack Foiled by Police

Before the Paris shooting, police in Marseilles arrested two men, Tuesday, on suspicion of planning an “imminent” attack in France. Police found explosives and guns at an apartment linked to the suspects. French presidential candidates were warned by security chiefs to increase their personal security.

France’s intelligence chief said they suspected the pair, both French-born and in their twenties, of plotting an attack to coincide with the election.

French Officials Warn Jihadists Trying to Destabilize Presidential Elections

Senior French officials say Thursday’s shooting in Paris and a planned attack foiled by police in Marseilles earlier this week are part of an effort by radical Islamists to influence the result of France’s upcoming election.

Thibault de Montbrial, former head of the French foreign ministry’s internal think tank, the Center for Analysis and Prevision, told French newspaper Le Figaro:

They want to influence French political life by directly impacting the course or even the organization of the polls.

French authorities say the gunman, named swiftly by the Islamic State terror group via its Amaq news agency as Belgian Abu Yousif al-Bajiki, opened fire on a police car parked on the Champs-Élysées, hitting three police officers and a tourist during the attack outside a Marks and Spencer clothing store.

The man was armed with a Kalashnikov AK-47 assault rifle and was shot dead as he tried to flee. One of the police officers died on the scene. Initial eyewitness reports said the dead gendarme had been shot while in his car, which was stationary at traffic lights. The gunman dashed out of another vehicle and without hesitation opened fire.

A French interior ministry spokesman said more than one attacker may have been involved and confirmed the police had been “deliberately targeted.” A second suspect turned himself in to authorities Friday in Antwerp, Belgium.

French President François Hollande held an emergency meeting with his top advisers and security chiefs Friday to discuss how to safeguard Sunday’s election. “A national tribute will be paid to this policeman who was killed in such a cowardly way,” the French leader later told reporters.

Islamic Terrorists Pre-Planned Attack

British counterterrorism expert Olivier Guitta told VOA the unusual speed with which IS claimed responsibility for the attack would seem to indicate the shooting was not just ‘inspired’ by the terror group but was also planned by it.

Thursday’s shooting took place as the 11 official candidates in the election were debating live on French national television. Some political commentators speculated the attack may increase popularity for Marine Le Pen, who says immigration threatens France’s security and culture.

More Terrorist Attacks Likely

Police fear more terrorist attacks are being planned, including the possibility of an attack on polling day.

Guitta, who runs GlobalStrat, a London-based risk consultancy, added:

The likelihood of more terror attacks in the French presidential elections is very high. Jihadists will try to influence the vote.

Marine Le Pen Calls for Border Closure

During Thursday’s debate Le Pen, who was being tipped by pollsters to top the list in the first round of the election Sunday, emphasized her long-standing call for France to leave the Schengen free movement zone and introduce much tighter border controls. Le Pen said:

The influx of migrants is in front of us. Control our borders, otherwise we won’t stop this wave.

As news of the attack emerged, the candidates toughened their proposals for protecting France from terrorism. “Enough of laxity, enough of naivety,” Le Pen declared. Conservative candidate François Fillon proposed arresting hundreds of militant suspects on the terror watch list, like Thursday’s gunman.

Presidential Race Already Influenced by Terrorism Debate

Pollsters have been saying for weeks that the presidential race is very tight between the top four candidates, Le Pen, Fillon, the centrist and pro-EU Emmanuel Macron and left-winger candidate Jean-Luc Melenchon. Analysts have said a major last-minute event could easily swing the election.

Macron, a former economy minister with limited security experience, took a mild stance compared to Le Pen and Fillon in Thursday’s debate, cautioning France would have to live with terrorism for many years to come, a message few will be happy to hear.

Speaking on RFI radio, Le Pen said:

Today fundamentalist Islam is waging war and the measures are not being taken to limit the risks.

Speaking on radio, Friday, April 21, Le Pen emphasized the terror facing France:

France, has again known the barbarism of a terrorist attack at the very heart of our capital.

US President Donald Trump responded to the latest Islamic terror atrocity in Europe, tweeting, April 21:

Another terrorist attack in Paris. The people of France will not take much more of this. Will have a big effect on presidential election!

With additional reporting from Voice of America.

Photo: Avenue des Champs Elysees, Paris, by Luca Margheriti (2008, CC3).

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