Man who shot policeman in Paris had history of attempting to kill officers

PHOTO: Reuters

Paris - The man who shot dead a policeman on Paris's Champs Elysees Thursday was the focus of an anti-terror probe with a history of attempting to kill officers, sources close to the investigation said.

Raids took place at the 39-year-old's Paris suburb home during the night after he killed the policeman and wounded two others in an attack claimed by the Islamic State group.

He was shot dead in return fire while trying to escape, police sources told AFP.

The suspect was arrested in February on suspicion of plotting to kill officers but was released because of lack of evidence.

He had been convicted in 2005 of three counts of attempted murder, with two of these against police officers, sources said.

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  • A known terror suspect shot dead a French policeman and wounded two others Thursday on Paris's Champs Elysees in an attack claimed by the Islamic State group.
  • The incident comes just days before a presidential election.
  • Observers had long feared bloodshed ahead of Sunday's vote in France following a string of atrocities since 2015 and the violence is likely to thrust security to the front of voters' minds.
  • The shooter opened fire with an automatic weapon on a police van on the world-famous boulevard at around 9:00 pm (1900 GMT), prompting tourists and visitors to run for their lives.
  • After killing the officer and injuring his colleagues just a few hundred metres from the Arc de Triomphe, the gunman was shot dead in return fire while trying to flee on foot, police sources told AFP.
  • A statement from the Islamic State group published by its propaganda agency Amaq said the attacker was "one of the Islamic State's fighters."
  • The killer, identified as a 39-year-old French man, was known to anti-terror police, sources told AFP, and raids took place at his address in a suburb to the east of Paris.
  • He was condemned to 15 years in prison in February 2005 on three counts of attempted murder, including against police officers.
  • The bustling Champs Elysees lies in the heart of Paris and is lined with shops and restaurants.
  • It was immediately blocked by armed officers after the attack and nearby metro stations were closed.
  • France is in a state of emergency and at its highest possible level of terror alert.
  • The Charlie Hebdo magazine was hit in January 2015, sites around Paris including the Bataclan concert hall were targeted in November the same year.
  • Thousands of troops and armed police have been deployed to guard tourist hotspots such as the Champs Elysees or other potential targets, including government buildings and religious sites.
  • The impact on the outcome of the French election is unclear - Sunday is the poll's first round - but far-right leader Marine Le Pen, her centrist rival Emmanuel Macron, and scandal-hit conservative Francois Fillon cancelled campaign events planned for Friday.
  • French President Francois Hollande promised "absolute vigilance, particularly with regard to the electoral process" and paid tribute to the police.

The charges dated back to 2001, when he was armed and behind the wheel of a stolen car, which hit another vehicle.

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.

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