A gunman has killed a police officer and seriously wounded two others before being shot dead in an attack on the Champs Elysees shopping district in the French capital, according to Paris police and the interior ministry.
The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) group claimed responsibility for the attack on Thursday evening, which took place three days before France’s first round of presidential election. It was not possible for Al Jazeera to independently confirm the claim.
Pierre-Henry Brandet, interior ministry spokesman, said the attack happened near the Franklin Roosevelt subway station, at the centre of the avenue popular with tourists.
“An automatic weapon was used against police, a weapon of war,” Brandet told reporters, adding that the “terrorist threat” in the country remained high.
“A vehicle stopped near a [parked] traffic police vehicle. A man got out straight away and opened fire on the police, fatally injuring one police officer,” Brandet said.
“The man then tried to run away along the pavement and aimed at the police. He injured two of them, apparently seriously, and one policeman shot back and killed the attacker.”
The identity of the attacker, who was killed, had not yet been definitely established, Brandet said.
ISIL, also known as ISIS, said in a statement on its Amaq website that the attacker was one of its fighters.
The French prosecutors’ office said the counter-terrorism office had opened an inquiry, while the French President Francois Hollande said he is “convinced” that a “terrorism” probe is the correct approach.
The French interior ministry confirmed on Twitter that explosives technicians were searching the vehicle used by the gunman.
France has lived under a state of emergency since 2015 and has suffered a series of attacks that have killed more than 230 people in the past two years.
|Police secure the Champs Elysees Avenue after the shooting incident [Christian Hartmann/Reuters]|
Soldiers patrolling area
Al Jazeera’s Shafik Mandhai, reporting from Champs Elysees, said dozens of police vehicles and at least one ambulance were seen in the area.
“The incident took place between Franklin Roosevelt metro station and the Arc de Triumph,” he said. “Police formed a cordon and began moving people away.”
Soldiers were patrolling the area and the cordon was extended to the streets surrounding Champs Elysees.
Massimo Cavazzini was walking along Champs Elysees when police arrived.
“We saw many cars converging to the middle of the road,” he told Al Jazeera.
“We immediately realised something was happening. Then two helicopters and around 50-60 cars going there so we moved away to a safer place.”
On Tuesday, two men, suspected of preparing an attack to disrupt the first-round of the election, were arrested in southern Marseille with weapons and explosives.
|Police secure the Champs Elysees Avenue following the incident in the French capital [Christian Hartmann/Reuters]|
Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies