French PM knocks Le Pen, Fillon stance on security after Paris shooting

French PM knocks Le Pen, Fillon stance on security after Paris shooting

Eventually freed after serving most of his sentence, he was arrested again this year on suspicion of preparing an attack on police - but released for lack of evidence.

April 21: A known terror suspect shoots dead a French policeman and wounds two others on the Champs Elysees, before being killed in return fire, in an assault claimed by ISIS.

A gunman wielding a machine gun leapt out of a auto and opened fire on the Champs-Elysees, Paris's most famous boulevard, as candidates were engaging in their final TV debate ahead of Sunday's vote.

Investigators say they found a pump-action shotgun and knives in Cheurfi's abandoned vehicle. Cheurfi's identity was confirmed from his fingerprints.

U.S. President Donald Trump said on Twitter that the shooting would influence the French election. The risk for the main candidates was that misjudging the public mood, making an ill-perceived gesture or comment, could damage their chances.

The attack occurred three days before the first round of the French presidential election.

Marine Le Pen of the far-right Front National, Francois Fillon of the centre-right Republicains and centrist Emmanuel Macron have cancelled events scheduled for today, the last day of the campaign.

He then attempted to run away as he continued firing, injuring two further officers and a female tourist before authorities opened fire, killing the attacker.

Le Pen is seen as the "hardest" on the terror threat and has switched her campaign rhetoric back to core issues of immigration and the fight against terrorism in recent days. Cazeneuve, the Socialist prime minister, accused the National Front leader of seeking to make political hay from the assault.

"In times such as these we have to demonstrate that France is united", he said. The Islamic State group claims responsibility for the attack carried out by a jihadist with a prior terrorist conviction. "This must be the priority", he said. 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. One of the wounded officers was critically injured but is improving, he said. "Will have a big effect on presidential election!"

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

Government officials said that Cheurfi had been on a watch-list of potential attackers.

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Interior Ministry spokesman Pierre-Henry Brandet said on BFM television that a man came out of a auto and opened fire on a police vehicle.

A bullet hole is pictured on a shopwindow of the Champs Elysees boulevard in Paris, Friday, April 21, 2017.

- What impact on the election?

A Downing Street spokesman said: "The UK strongly condemns the appalling terrorist attack in Paris".

Fillon said that if elected he would focus on the destruction of ISIS.

The extremist group named the attacker as Abu Yusuf al Beljiki and suggested he was a Belgian.

A source close to the investigation said the attacker had a long criminal record.

The prosecutors' office stressed Friday that questioning family members is routine in such cases, as investigators seek to determine whether the gunman was acting alone, where he got his weapons and other details.

The attack appeared to fit a spreading pattern of European extremists targeting security forces and symbols of state to discredit, take vengeance or destabilize society.

Fillon, for his part, pledged to maintain the state of emergency that has been in place since the November 2015 attacks.

For Sunday's vote, the government is mobilizing more than 50,000 police and gendarmes to protect the 70,000 polling stations, with an additional 7,000 soldiers also on patrol.

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