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Paris Terror Attack Comes Days Before French Elections

22 April 2017

Paris: One police officer was killed and three wounded in a shooting on Paris's Champs Elysees, police said, just days ahead of France's presidential election.

Archive reports by French newspaper Le Parisien say that Cheurfi was convicted of attacking a police officer in 2001.

He got out of the vehicle and fired an automatic weapon, killing one officer in the van, before shooting at others who were standing on the nearby pavement, injuring two before he was shot dead by police.

Islamic State, which has hundreds of French-speaking fighters, claimed responsibility for the Champs Elysees shooting soon afterwards, in a statement identifying the attacker as "Abu Yousif al-Belgiki (the Belgian)".

Meanwhile, two French officials say the gunman was detained in February for threatening police, then freed.

The so-called Islamic State group has said it was behind the attack in Paris - a city still scarred by bloody IS attacks in 2015.

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Here is what we now know about the shooting, which took place just days before the first round of the French election.

French President François Hollande said the attack was most likely terrorist related. Police tape surrounded the quiet, middle-class neighborhood in Chelles early Friday, and anxious neighbors expressed surprise at the searches.

Cops have said they are hunting a second suspect who may have been involved in the attack, during which the gunman targeted a patrol auto in the busy tourist area of Paris.

The Islamic State group quickly claimed responsibility for the attack. Far-right candidate Marine Le Pen, who has made terrorism and immigration key issues in her campaign, and Francois Fillon, a conservative former prime minister, are close behind, as is Communist-backed Jean-Luc Melenchon.

"The assailants want death, symbolism, to sow panic, to disrupt the democratic process - the presidential election", he said.

Hours before the Paris attack, Belgian police reportedly found weapons and a ticket for a train trip to France departing Thursday morning, the paper reported.

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In a video posted online, frontrunner for the presidency Emmanuel Macron said "the terrorists will is to destabilise the country".

"On the face of it, the officers were deliberately targeted", Interior Ministry spokesman Pierre-Henry Brandet said.

While in detention, Cheurfi had also shot and wounded a prison officer after seizing his gun. "We are in a war that will be long", he said.

The French security official said Cheurfi had not been identified as a potential threat to national security, but did have a previous conviction for violence against the police and a history of radicalization.

Candidates on Friday canceled or rescheduled final campaign events.

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