France braces for presidential election after another attack

  • Get News Alerts


France began picking itself up Friday from another shooting claimed by the Islamic State group, with President Francois Hollande calling together the government's security council and his would-be successors in the presidential election campaign treading carefully before voting this weekend.

One of the key questions was if, and how, the attack that killed one police officer and wounded three other people might impact voting intentions. The risk for the main candidates was that misjudging the public mood, making an ill-perceived gesture or comment, could damage their chances. With polling just two days away, and campaigning banned from Friday at midnight, they would have no time to recover before polls open on Sunday. Candidates canceled or rescheduled final campaign events ahead of Sunday's first-round vote in the two-stage election.

On the iconic avenue in the heart of Paris, municipal workers in white hygiene suits were out before dawn Friday to wash down the sidewalk where the assault took place — a scene now depressingly familiar after multiple attacks that have killed more than 230 people in France in little over two years. Delivery trucks did their early morning rounds; everything would have seemed normal were it not for the row of TV trucks parked up along the boulevard that is a must-visit for tourists.

Hollande's defense and security council meeting was part of government efforts to protect Sunday's vote, taking place under already heightened security, with more than 50,000 police and soldiers mobilized, and a state of emergency in place since 2015.

The attacker emerged from a car and used an automatic weapon to shoot at officers outside a Marks & Spencer's department store at the center of the Champs-Elysees, anti-terrorism prosecutor Francois Molins said. Police shot and killed the gunman. One officer was killed and two seriously wounded. A female foreign tourist also was wounded, Molins said. The Islamic State group's claim of responsibility just a few hours after the attack came unusually swiftly for the extremist group, which has been losing territory in Iraq and Syria.

In a statement from its Amaq news agency, the group gave a pseudonym for the shooter, Abu Yusuf al-Beljiki, indicating he was Belgian or had lived in Belgium. Belgian authorities said they had no information about the suspect.

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 tape surrounded the quiet, middle-class neighborhood and worried neighbors expressed surprise at the searches. Archive reports by French newspaper Le Parisien say that Cheurfi was convicted of attacking a police officer in 2001.

 

Authorities are trying to determine whether "one or more people" might have helped the attacker, Interior Ministry spokesman Pierre-Henry Brandet said.

The attacker had been flagged as an extremist, according to two police officials, speaking on condition of anonymity because they weren't authorized to publicly discuss the investigation.

The gunfire sent scores of tourists fleeing into side streets.

"They were running, running," said 55-year-old Badi Ftaïti, who lives in the area. "Some were crying. There were tens, maybe even hundreds of them."

The assault recalled two recent attacks on soldiers providing security at prominent locations around Paris: one at the Louvre museum in February and one at Orly airport last month.

A French television station hosting an event with the 11 candidates running for president briefly interrupted its broadcast to report the shootings.

Conservative contender Francois Fillon, who has campaigned against "Islamic totalitarianism," said on France 2 television that he was canceling his planned campaign stops Friday.

Far-right candidate Marine Le Pen, who campaigns against immigration and Islamic fundamentalism, took to Twitter to offer her sympathy for law enforcement officers "once again targeted." She canceled a minor campaign stop, but scheduled another.

Centrist candidate Emmanuel Macron offered his thoughts to the family of the dead officer.

Socialist Benoit Hamon tweeted his "full support" to police against terrorism.

The two top finishers in Sunday's election will advance to a runoff on May 7.

Comments

More News

  • Cabinet meeting stalled as PM leaves to meet Oli

    Cabinet meeting stalled as PM leaves to meet Oli The Cabinet meeting held to decide on revising the new constitution amendment bill as per the agreement reached with the agitating United Democratic Madhesi Front (UDMF) on Saturday has been stalled after Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal left for Balkot to meet CPN-UML Chairman KP Oli.

  • Advocate Nirupama Yadav deputy mayoral candidate of Sajha Party for Kathmandu

    Advocate Nirupama Yadav deputy mayoral candidate of Sajha Party for Kathmandu The recently-formed Sajha Party on Sunday has announced its central coordination committee member and advocate Nirupama Yadav as the party's candidate for deputy mayor of Kathmandu Metropolitan City. Born in Saptari and raised in Banke, Yadav, 39, currently resides in Kathmandu-14 and has been working in Kathmandu after being married to a man of Morang at the age of 17, a press release issued by the party reads.

  • 100 casualties in Afghanistan attack: Afghan officials

    100 casualties in Afghanistan attack: Afghan officials Reports conflicted on the death toll, but at least two sources within the army corps and a provincial security official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak with the media, confirmed that more than 130 people were killed and at least 80 others were wounded. The defense ministry had said Friday night that eight soldiers were killed and 11 others were wounded in its initial reports.

  • French voters begin casting ballots in presidential election

    French voters have begun casting ballots for the presidential election in a tense first-round poll that's seen as a test for the spread of populism around the world. Over 60,000 polling stations opened Sunday at 0600 GMT for some 47 million eligible voters, who will choose between 11 candidates. It's the most unpredictable election in generations.

  • Cabinet meeting underway to revise constitution amendment bill

    Cabinet meeting underway to revise constitution amendment bill The Cabinet meeting is underway to decide on revising the new constitution amendment bill as per the agreement reached with the agitating United Democratic Madhesi Front (UDMF) on Saturday. The Prime Minister's Secretariat has informed that the Cabinet meeting is scheduled to be held at the Office of the Prime Minister and Council of Ministers at 11 am Sunday.

Opinion

  • Challenges for reconstruction Challenges for reconstruction

    One of the major challenges faced in the reconstruction process of Nepal is the absence of elected local government. Lack of government in local level was reflected in the major pre-disaster and post-disaster events, where it took months to reach the affected region and still no widely-accepted data is available. In the absence of an elected local government, top-down approach of governance has its own accountability deficit.

    Apil KC/Keshab Sharma

  • Making sense of Adityanath's rise in Modi's India Making sense of Adityanath's rise in Modi's India

    The most notorious incitement of communal hatred by Adityanath was his exhortation to 'kill ten woh log ['them' meaning Muslims]' rather than knocking the doors of legal system 'if one Hindu is killed' in riots.

    Jiwan Kshetry

Blog

  • Identity and nationhood Identity and nationhood

    Whoever says nationhood is not important would be lying. For example, belonging to a particular nation may give certain advantages to a person that one belonging to another nation would not get.

    Ketan Dulal

  • The shankha blower from Bichour The shankha blower from Bichour

    Coincidentally, Ram Lal Joshi, the Radio Nepal singer had his house adjacent to ours and had been hearing him blow it every day. Hari worked as a bagainche in Singha-durbar during day. Ram Lal got him to blow the shankha as a part of musical instrument for Radio Nepal’s iconic signature tune.

    Hemant Arjyal

Readers Column

  • Traffic Police in Kathmandu

    As busy and hassling as the traffic system in Kathmandu is, the Traffic Police here have to handle an equally strenuous job. Over 1,400 traffic officers in and around the Kathmandu Valley battle against the pestering traffic and air pollution each day.

  • Menstrual taboo outdated

    I have seen my sisters and friends isolated and treated in discriminatory manner during their first menstruation cycle. They were not allowed to look at the sun, to touch water source, flower, fruits, any male family member, nor even hear their voice. The activist may claim the situation has changed and I do agree but still during every month my loved ones turns into untouchables beings.

Popular

Recommended

Suchanapati