- Gunman named as Frenchman Karim Cheurfi by AP, as his history of violence against police is revealed. Note defending ISIS found near the body of the attacker. Police officer killed in the attack identified as Xavier Jugelé. French election candidates have their say on the attack as the nation prepares to head to the polls.
The gunman who killed a police officer in Paris on Thursday night has been named as 39-year-old Frenchman Karim Cheurfi, as evidence linking the attack to terror group ISIS grows.
Paris prosecutor François Molins identified Cheurfi, who shot dead a police officer, named as 37-year-old Xavier Jugelé, with an automatic Kalashnikov rifle and injured two others around 9 p.m. local time (CET). A second suspect handed himself in to Belgian police on Friday.
The French national was killed by police on the scene. AFP reported on Friday that a note defending ISIS (also known as Daesh and the Islamic State) was discovered at the scene, adding weight to evidence that the attack was terror-related.
ISIS also claimed responsibility for the attack through Amaq, a news agency associated with the terror group.
AP published a photo of Cheurfi and said it had obtained a police document showing that his family address, in the eastern Paris suburb of Chelles, was raided on Friday morning.
Cheurfi was known to police in relation to Islamist terrorist activity and was detained and released as recently as February for threatening a police officer, Press Association reported, citing French officials.
He had shot and wounded three police officers in 2001, and had also been involved in violent robberies, CNN reported. These reports are yet to be confirmed by the French authorities.
Shortly after the attack, French President Francois Hollande said authorities were convinced it was “terrorist-related,” according to Reuters. But Reuters also cited three police sources who say it may have been an attempted armed robbery, and a French Interior Ministry spokesman said it was too early to identify a motive.
“We must all be aware that our security forces do work that is particularly difficult, that they are exposed, as one can see again this evening, and that they have the nation’s full support,” Hollande said.
The attack overshadowed the final day of campaigning for the first round of the French election, which takes place on Sunday. A poll, carried out before Thursday’s attack for BFM TV and L’Express, shows that centrist Emmanuel Macron remains favourite to triumph with 24% of the vote.
Thursday’s events could play into the hands of far-right candidate Marine Le Pen, however, because of her strong anti-immigration policies. Le Pen said on Friday that France should immediately reinstate border checks and expel foreigners who are on the watch lists of intelligence services, according to Reuters.
“Today fundamentalist Islam is waging war and… the measures are not being taken to limit the risks,” she is quoted as telling French radio station RFI. The BFM TV and L’Express poll puts Le Pen in second place with 21.5% of the vote.
But French Prime Minister Bernard Cazeneuve said Le Pen was seeking “to exploit fear without any shame.” Cazeneuve added that the attack was not immigration-related, according to Reuters, and must not derail France’s election. “Nothing must hamper this democratic moment, essential for our country,” he said.
More than 50,000 police and soldiers have been “fully mobilised” to protect people who will vote in the first round of the French election on Sunday, Cazeneuve said.
French presidential frontrunner Emmanuel Macron warned France to rise above the fear of terrorism. “Don’t yield to fear, don’t yield to division and intimidation. Our generation must rise to this challenge,” he said in a televised statement from his campaign headquarters.
World leaders respond
US President Donald Trump acknowledged the attack during a press conference on Thursday. “Condolences from our country to the people of France. It’s a terrible thing that’s going on in the world today,” he told reporters.
“It looks like another terrorist attack. And what can you say – it never ends,” he added. “We have to be strong and we have to be vigilant. And I’ve been saying it for a long time.”
British Prime Minister Theresa May also voiced her condemnation of another night of terror in France. The country was rocked by an attack on Nice last year, when 86 people were killed after a truck was driven into crowds on Bastille Day, and Paris in November 2015, when 130 were murdered in coordinated suicide bombings and mass shootings around the city.
The UK strongly condemns the appalling terrorist attack in Paris. The Prime Minister has passed on her condolences to President @fhollande.
— UK Prime Minister (@Number10gov) April 20, 2017