The Champs-Elysees, Paris’ most iconic boulevard, was returning to its normal activities Friday, after a gunman killed one policeman Thursday and wounded two others on the world-famous street.
French President Francois Hollande said he is convinced the “cowardly killing” was an act of terrorism. The French leader Friday called together the government’s security council and his would-be successors in the presidential election campaign to discuss if, and how, the attack might impact voting intentions.
Hollande’s defense and security council meeting was part of government efforts to protect Sunday’s vote, taking place under heightened security.
“We shall be of the utmost vigilance, especially in relation to the election,” he told the nation on television.
“Nothing must hamper this democratic moment, essential for our country,” Prime Minister Bernard Cazeneuve said, appealing for national unity and for people “not to succumb to fear.”
“The whole of Europe is targeted because it represents the values and ideals of peace,” he said.
More weapons found
Piecing together reports from witnesses, investigators said a gunman jumped out of a car near a subway station and opened fire on a police vehicle with a machine gun. He was killed by police gunfire.
Investigators found a pump-action shotgun and knives in the car of the gunman who targeted police on the Champs-Elysees, and were working to determine whether he had accomplices.
Islamic State, which claimed responsibility through its news agency, identified the shooter as “Abu Yussef the Belgian,” calling him “one of Islamic State’s fighters.”
Paris police said the dead gunman has been identified, but they have not released his name or said if he was working with Islamic State.
Investigators searched a home early Friday in an eastern suburb of Paris believed linked to the attack. A police document obtained by The Associated Press identifies the address searched in the town of Chelles as the family home of Karim Cheurfi, a 39-year-old with a criminal record.
Police closed off a large part of the Champs-Elysees Thursday. The boulevard is popular with residents and tourists for its fashionable shops and restaurants.
On Friday, municipal workers in white hygiene suits were out before dawn to wash down the sidewalk where the assault took place. Delivery trucks did their early morning rounds; everything would have seemed normal were it not for the row of TV trucks parked along the boulevard.
U.S. Vice President Mike Pence, speaking Friday in Jakarta, said the attack in Paris was the latest reminder that terrorism can strike anywhere and at any time.He said the U.S. would not relent in its efforts to end terrorism.
In Washington, President Donald Trump sent condolences to the French people. He called the attack “a terrible thing,” and said it was another example of the sort of violence that “never ends.”
France is on edge ahead of Sunday’s presidential election, with a very close outcome expected. The country is still feeling the effects of a series of deadly Islamic terrorist attacks over the past two years that killed more than 200 people.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.