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French Identify Paris Gunman, Find IS-Related Note


Masked police stand on top of their vehicle on the Champs-Elysees Avenue after the shooting late on April 20.

French authorities have identified the gunman in the attack on police officers on the Champs-Elysees in Paris, and said a note found near his body included a message of support for the Islamic State (IS) militant group.

Police on April 21 said the gunman, identified as Karim Cheurfi, fired on a police vehicle parked on the famed boulevard in central Paris late on April 20, just days before the French presidential election.

One officer was killed and two were injured, and the gunman was also killed by police firing back after the attack.

IS, which had claimed multiple terror attacks that have killed hundreds of people in Europe over the past two years, issued a claim of responsibility for the Paris attack.

French authorities said Cheurfi, 39, was a French national who lived with his mother in the eastern Paris suburb of Chelles.

Police said he opened fire on a police van, killing a 37-year-old officer, before shooting at other officers guarding a Turkish tourist office on the heavily patrolled Champs-Elysees shopping and dining boulevard.

They said a “handwritten message defending” IS was found on a piece of paper near the gunman’s body.

French police react after a shooting in which a police officer was killed.
French police react after a shooting in which a police officer was killed.

The authorities have said it appeared that police had been specifically targeted by the shooter, with notes found in a car believed to have been driven by Cheurfi containing the addresses of several police facilities.

A sports bag was also found in the car with a pump-action rifle, two kitchen knives, and garden items that could be used as weapons.

A police source told Reuters the man had been known to authorities and had served prison time for previous assaults on law-enforcement officials over the past 16 years. They added, though, that he had no known militant links.

In one incident, Cheurfi served 10 years after firing on two plainclothes officers in 2001 as they attempted to arrest him in a stolen car.

Antiterror prosecutor Francois Molins said Cheurfi had been arrested in February after he tried to acquire weapons and had spoken in terms that suggested he wanted to kill police officers.

No charges were filed, however, after authorities determined there was not sufficient evidence against him.

Investigators are trying to find out whether Cheurfi had accomplices, Molins said.

France is in a state of emergency and at its highest-possible level of alert since a string of terror attacks that began in 2015 and have killed more than 230 people.

Thousands of troops and armed police have been deployed to guard tourist attractions such as the Champs-Elysees or other potential targets like government buildings and religious sites.

In addition, French voters are set go to the polls on April 23 to choose their next president, and authorities said they are tightening security further for the election.

Prime Minister Bernard Cazeneuve said after an emergency security cabinet meeting that some 50,000 police and gendarmes will be deployed to provide security during the first-round vote.

Centrist Emmanuel Macron and far-right candidate Marine Le Pen are likely to take the top two spots, sending them into a runoff election on May 7.

With reporting by Reuters and dpa