Police officer killed in Paris shooting
A police officer was killed on Thursday and another left fighting for his life after an apparent terrorist shooting on the famous Champs Elysées avenue just days before the first round of the presidential election.
A gunman opened fire on police officers on the famous avenue at about 9pm on Thursday evening when the boulevard was packed with shoppers, restaurant goers and tourists.
One officer was killed and two others injured, at least one them critically. The shooter was also killed at the scene, police confirmed, with sources telling media he was known to intelligence services.
A spokesman for the ministry of interior said the shooter pulled up in a car next to a police car and opened fire, before trying to flee on foot.
He injured two more officers before he was killed when a group of police officers on patrol fired back, said Pierre-Henry Brandet.
"This is a tragedy for the police and a tragedy for France," he said adding that Parisians are advised to stay away from the area. He urged caution over the identity of the gunman.
President François Hollande held an emergency meeting with his Prime Minister Bernard Cazeneuve after hearing of the shooting.
One witness told BFM TV he saw the man pull out a kalashnikov before opening fire.
"As soon as we realized he was shooting we ran into a shop and ran upstairs and watched from of the window as police shot him dead," said the unnamed witness.
Counter-terrorist investigators have been placed in charge of the investigation, suggesting authorities are in little doubt the shooting is just the latest in a series of terror attacks against France and in particular its capital city in recent years.
This latest attack comes just days before France goes to the polls for the first round of the presidential election.
"There are extremely tense scenes around the Champs Elysees as police cordon off all the roads nearby", said one reporter.
"There are helicopters overhead and police are treating anyone driving or walking in the area with extreme caution.
"They are searching everyone and pulling out their weapons at the sign of anything suspicious. They are on edge and the public are confused and worried."
The shooter opened fire with an AK47 near the Marks & Spencer store on the famous shopping shopping boulevard that is popular with tourists.
"We were in a restaurant just off the Champs Elysées and we were told by the owner we couldn't go out. There was a terror attack, they said. There were police everywhere," a Vietnamese man told reporters.
"We were locked inside because police confirmed the attack. We were not scared because we were upstairs and not in the street. After an hour an a half we came down in a group with police and were taken to safety.
TV images on BFM TV showed the flashing lights of police vans along the avenue up to the famous Arc de Triomphe, while police were seen telling members of the public to move away from the area.
Witnesses told BFM TV the avenue as well as surrounding streets have been cordoned off. A police helicopter hovered overhead.
"At first we thought it was firecrackers but then we realised it was a shooting and everyone ran in panic. People were crying," one shopkeeper told BFM TV.
"The area was cleared really quickly."
Thousands of troops and armed police have been deployed to guard tourist hotspots such as the Champs Elysees or other potential targets like government buildings and religious sites.
Up until now, polls showed voters more concerned about unemployment and their spending power than terrorism or security, though analysts warned this would change in the event of further bloodshed.
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