Champs Elysees shooter was focus of anti-terror probe

AFP-JIJI, Reuters, Kyodo, Bloomberg, AP

A man who shot dead a policeman on the Champs Elysees in Paris on Thursday was the focus of an anti-terrorism 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. Police took into custody three of his family members, a legal source said on Friday.

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

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.

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.

President Francois Hollande calling together the government’s security council, and France said its security forces were fully mobilized for Sunday’s presidential election after the killing by the Islamist militant threw a dark shadow over the last day of an unpredictable campaign.

Three of the four front-runners — far-right leader Marine Le Pen, centrist Emmanuel Macron and conservative former Prime Minister Francois Fillon — called off campaign events planned for Friday.

Macron still held on to his position as front-runner. Fillon and the far left’s Jean-Luc Melenchon were snapping at his heels.

Campaigning and the publication of voter surveys are banned from midnight on Friday. Sunday’s vote will be followed by a runoff on May 7 between the top two candidates.

Le Pen called on Hollande to restore border controls immediately and to expel or detain all those suspected of being Islamic radicals. “Because our country is at war, the response must be global, total,” she said on Friday.

Fillon also said the fight against “Islamist totalitarianism” should be the priority of the next president.

In Tokyo, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe sent a message of solidarity to Hollande on Friday. “This kind of terrorism is an attack on the entire civilized world, and we resolutely condemn it,” Abe said in the message, released by the Foreign Ministry.