(RFE/RL) — One police officer was killed and two were seriously wounded in an attack on April 20 by a gunman on the city’s Champs-Elysees boulevard that was later claimed by the Islamic State group.
French President Francois Hollande denounced the “terrorist” incident and vowed “absolute vigilance” in the days leading up to a presidential election on April 23. Several presidential candidates suspended campaigning, citing the attack, and one called for suspension of the election.
French prosecutors said they were trying to determine whether the gunmen, who appeared to be working alone and was killed by police, had accomplices.
Interior Ministry spokesman Pierre-Henry Brandet said the attacker was killed during the incident on the French capital’s famed shopping boulevard, which sent tourists and shoppers scurrying.
The assailant parked his car opposite a police vehicle and opened fire with an automatic firearm, killing one policeman, Brandet said. He then tried to flee on foot, still shooting, but was killed by police.
Authorities said a search was under way at the home in the east of Paris of the dead attacker, who was known to security services to be an extremist.
The Islamic State’s Amaq news agency within hours claimed responsibility for the attack “in the heart of Paris,” and identified the gunman as Abu Yousif, a Belgian.
U.S. President Donald Trump, speaking in Washington during a scheduled press conference with Italian Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni, said the Paris attack “looks like” terrorism, although he said he had just learned of the incident.
“It looks like another terrorist attack,” he said. “What can you say? It just never ends. We have to be strong and we have to be vigilant, and I have been saying it for a long time.”
Video from the scene on the evening of April 20 show police vehicles and helicopters converging on the boulevard. Police warned people to avoid the area in the French capital.
A witness told Reuters that a man got out of a vehicle and began shooting with a Kalashnikov.
Paris, like most major cities in Europe and elsewhere, has been on high security following a series of terror attacks on the continent.
France is in a state of emergency and at its highest possible level of alert since a string of terror attacks that began in 2015, which have killed over 230 people.
Thousands of troops and armed police have been deployed to guard tourist attractions such as the Champs Elysees or other potential targets like government buildings and religious sites.
The April 20 shooting came the same day as candidates in France’s presidential race made their final appeals to voters ahead of the April 23 election.
Centrist Emmanuel Macron and far-right Marine Le Pen are likely to take the top two spots, forcing them into a runoff election on May 7.
While Macron holds just a slight lead over Le Pen going into the election, polls indicate he would win by a large margin against the far-right candidate in the runoff.