Prosecutors open terror investigation into Paris attack

French prosecutors have opened a terrorism investigation into an attack in the Champs Elysees shopping district in Paris where an armed man killed one policeman and seriously injured two people.

President Francois Hollande said he was “convinced” a “terrorism” investigation was the correct approach to the incident after the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) group claimed responsibility for Thursday’s attack.

Hollande promised “absolute vigilance, particularly with regard to the electoral process” as France braces for the first round of a presidential election on Sunday.




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French television networks reported that the attacker was a 39-year-old French national and was known to anti-terrorism police. Raids took place at his address in a suburb to the east of Paris.

“The identity of the attacker is known and has been checked. I will not give it because investigations with raids are ongoing,” Francois Molins, Paris prosecutor, said.

“The investigators want to be sure whether he had or did not have accomplices.”

According to a document obtained by Reuters news agency, police had issued an arrest warrant for a second suspect. The warrant said the man had arrived in France by train from Belgium.

Several candidates in Sunday’s presidential election announced after the attack that they ended their campaigns early as a mark of respect.

Al Jazeera’s Natasha Butler, in Paris, said the attack throws the spotlight back onto security after an election campaign where it has been a major issue.

She said that around the country, even in small villages and towns unaffected by attacks, people still talk about the threat of violence.

“They’re frightened. There’s a sense that something like this could happen to anyone, at any given time,” she said.

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Joseph Downing, a researcher at the London Schools of Economics, said that if the attacker was, as reported, known to police, it raised questions of how he could still stage an attack.

“This is something we’ve seen repeatedly in France, that everyone who has popped up to carry out an attack, has been on the police database,” he told Al Jazeera.

“Even the person that murdered the priest [in Normandy] last year was actually on bail for terror offences at the time.”




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France has been under a state of emergency since 2015 and has suffered a series of attacks that have killed more than 230 people in the past two years.

The Charlie Hebdo magazine was hit in January 2015, sites around Paris including the Bataclan concert hall were targeted in November the same year, and families at a fireworks display in Nice in July 2016.

ISIL has claimed responsibility for the attacks in revenge for French air strikes in Syria and Iraq.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies

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