Pro-IS note found near Paris gunman: probe source
THOMAS SAMSON (AFP)
A handwritten note praising the Islamic State was found near the the shooter that opened fire on Paris's famed Champs-Elysees boulevard on Thursday ,a source close to the probe said Friday.
French police identified the primary suspect in the fatal shooting of a police officer as a 39-year-old man from a suburb east of Paris who was a known terror suspect.
In addition to the note near the body of the Frenchman Karim Cheurfi, police found a Koran in his vehicle at the scene of Thursday's attack, the sources told AFP.
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, police said.
The gunman was shot dead in return fire while trying to flee on foot, police sources said. Officials are trying to establish if he had accomplices for the attack.
Police raided the suspect's apartment in a suburb to the east of Paris and found guns and knives during a search of his vehicle. Three members of his family were questioned by police.
Authorities have so far refused to name the shooter, but the Associated Press reported that the address raided by police on Friday was the family home of a 39-year-old French national named Karim Cheurfi.
The Islamic State terrorist organization claimed the attack in a statement published on its Amaq propaganda agency, naming the perpetrator as "Abu Yussef the Belgian."
The suspect had been previously 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.
France was on Friday alerted about a new suspect by the Belgian security services but it was not immediately clear if he was linked to the attack, interior ministry spokesman Pierre-Henry Brandet told Europe 1 radio.
The man flagged by Belgian authorities quickly turned himself over to Belgian police in Antwerp, Brandet said.
The French Interior Ministry said that police officers were "deliberately" targeted in the attack. A foreign tourist was also slightly wounded in her knee by shrapnel during the shooting.
Anti-terror prosecutors said they opened a probe into the shooting and police carried out raids at the suspect's address in a suburb to the east of Paris.
French President Francois Hollande said that the shooting was suspected to be "of a terrorist nature" and promised "absolute vigilance" in the next two days ahead of presidential elections on Sunday.
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.
Up until now, surveys showed voters more concerned about unemployment and their spending power than terrorism or security, though analysts warned this would change in the event of violence.
The shooting comes two days after the arrest of two men in southern Marseille with weapons and explosives who were suspected of preparing an attack to disrupt the campaign.
France is in a state of emergency and at its highest possible level of terror alert, with jihadist-inspired assaults killing more than 230 people in recent years.
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 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.
(Staff with AFP)
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