2017 shooting of Paris police officers
On 20 April 2017, three police officers were shot by an attacker wielding an AK-47 rifle on the Champs-Élysées, a shopping boulevard in Paris, France. One officer was killed and two others, along with a female tourist, were seriously wounded. The attacker was then shot dead by police. Amaq News Agency, which is linked to the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), said the attacker was an ISIS fighter. Police are treating the attack as terrorism, and have launched a counter-terrorism investigation.
|2017 shooting of Paris police officers|
|Part of Islamic terrorism in Europe (2014–present)|
|Date||20 April 2017
|Target||Police officers on the Champs-Élysées|
|Deaths||2 (including the perpetrator)|
|Islamic State of Iraq and Syria|
The attacker was identified as French national Karim Cheurfi, who had a criminal record that included a twelve-year prison sentence for shooting two police officers. Police found a note praising ISIS, along with addresses of police stations, on his body. Because the attack took place immediately before the country's 2017 presidential election, media reports commented on its possible influence in the election's tone.
At the time of the shooting, France was on high alert in the wake of the November 2015 Paris attacks, and also due to the first round of the 2017 presidential election, which was scheduled in three days. Since 2015, there has been a spate of Islamist terrorist attacks on French police officers, soldiers and civilians, resulting in the deaths of more than 230 people. Two men were arrested in Marseille two days before the shooting, for allegedly planning a terrorist attack.
At about 9 pm, a man pulled up next to a police van in a car. The officers were guarding the entrance of the Centre Culturel Anatolie, a Turkish cultural centre located at number 102, near the Franklin D. Roosevelt metro station and the Marks & Spencer store. The man quickly got out and started firing an AK-47 rifle into the van. Three officers were struck, one fatally. The shooter then attempted to flee on foot, firing at other people as he did, but was shot and killed by other responding officers. A female tourist was also injured by "fragments from the shooting".
The avenue was closed down and civilians evacuated. On social media, Paris police warned people to stay away from the area and said there was a "police intervention underway". Investigators initially said the incident may have been related to a robbery, but an anti-terror investigation was later launched. A pump-action shotgun, ammunition, two kitchen knives, and shears were found in the gunman's car. Amaq News Agency placed responsibility for the attack on the Islamic State.
The dead officer was 37-year-old Xavier Jugelé, who was killed outright by two gunshot wounds to the head. He was one of the officers to respond to the Bataclan theatre during the massacre there in November 2015. Jugelé had been a member of the Paris police force since 2010, and was known as a gay rights activist and member of FLAG, the French association for LGBT police officers. He had been interviewed by the BBC in November 2016 when he visited the Bataclan when it reopened. He also served twice in Frontex to assist in the European migrant crisis in Greece. Jugelé was posthumously promoted to captain and awarded the knighthood of the Legion of Honor. He was eulogized by his civil partner Etienne Cardiles and President François Hollande at a ceremony held at the Paris Police Prefecture on 25 April. Cardiles later attended the installation of President Emmanuel Macron at the president's invitation.
|Born||31 December 1977
|Died||20 April 2017 (aged 39)
|Cause of death||Shot by police|
|Residence||Chelles, Seine-et-Marne, France|
|Other names||Abu Yusuf al-Beljiki|
Amaq News Agency, which is linked to the Islamic State (ISIS), said the shooter was an ISIS fighter, giving his pseudonym as Abu Yusuf al-Beljiki. The claim suggested the attacker was from Belgium. News outlets commented that the timing of the claim was "unusually swift". French police identified the attacker as 39-year-old Karim Cheurfi, born in Livry-Gargan in 1977 and living in Chelles, east of Paris. French prosecutors said that a note praising ISIS fell out of his pocket after he was shot, and that he was carrying addresses of police stations.
At the time of the shooting, Cheurfi was already well known to the DGSI, France's domestic security service. He had a criminal record for violent robberies and a shooting in 2001, in which he shot two police officers when they pulled him over. He wounded one of the officers after grabbing his gun while he was being questioned. A conviction for attempted murder followed in 2005: Cheurfi was sentenced to twenty years in prison, but the length of his imprisonment was later shortened to fifteen years. Despite a history of violence while behind bars, he was released in October 2015.
He had been detained in February 2017 for allegedly making threats to kill police, but was released due to lack of evidence. No evidence of radicalization was found, and as such, he was never placed on a terror watch list. He was, however, added to a "radicalisation and terror prevention and alert list" created in the wake of the Charlie Hebdo shooting, but he was not considered a priority. CNN reported that a source close to the investigation said police had launched a counter-terrorism investigation in March 2017 after learning of his attempts to establish communication with an ISIS fighter. AFP reported that police were aware of an attempt by Cheurfi to buy weapons in early 2016, with the intent of using them to kill French police officers as retaliation for the deaths of children in Syria. His home in Chelles was searched after the attack.
Cheurfi's former lawyer said he was "extremely isolated" and a "psychologically fragile character" whose mental problems were not treated. He added that he never spoke about religion and talked mainly about "how to fill his daily life with video games". Cheurfi had visited Algeria sometime before the shooting, allegedly to get married. This was a breach of his parole, following which he was interviewed by the authorities, though a judge decided not to revoke his probation.
Following Cheurfi's identification, three members of his family were arrested in Chelles in the early morning of April 21. However, investigators believe Cheurfi acted alone and was inspired by ISIS but was not necessarily a member.
After the shooting, an arrest warrant was issued for a second suspect who had arrived in France by train from Belgium. French sources say the man flagged by Belgian police in connection with the attack later turned himself in to them with his lawyer. He denied having any link to the attack, and claimed he was working on Thursday evening at Total at the Scheldelaan in Antwerp. He was later cleared of any links to the shooting and was said to be wanted in a drugs case.
President François Hollande called for an emergency security meeting at the Élysée Palace. He later released a statement saying French police suspected the shooting was a terrorist attack. He also stated that the security forces are to handle the situation with “utmost vigilance” to ensure the security of the presidential election.
Following the shooting, US President Donald Trump expressed his condolences to the people of France and said, "[W]e have to be strong and we have to be vigilant." Trump later expressed his belief on Twitter that the attack would have "a big effect" on the French presidential election.
French presidential electionEdit
As the attack happened three days before the first round of the French presidential election, three candidates ended campaign events early as "a mark of respect", with centre-right candidate François Fillon urging others to do the same. This was met with criticism from some other candidates like far-left candidate Jean-Luc Mélenchon, who said the violence should not interfere with the election process. The attack changed the tone of the campaign in its last days.
As the attack also happened during a televised debate between all eleven candidates in the election, fears arose that extremists were hoping to influence the debate's tone. With terrorism and security high priorities for Paris, The Guardian noted that the attack may serve as "ammunition" for right-wing candidates such as National Front leader Marine Le Pen, considered an outlier for her views on stronger border security and the deportation of radicalized foreigners, as well as Fillon.
Bernard Cazeneuve, the French Prime Minister, criticized both Le Pen's and Fillon's reactions. He accused Le Pen of trying to exploit the shooting for politics, and also attacked her for demanding further security measures. He explained that she herself had voted against the government efforts on security previously, referring to her party voting against an anti-terrorism law in 2014 and against beefing up of resources for French intelligence services in 2015. He also criticized Fillon's record on security during his term as Prime Minister.
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Le policier avait notamment participé à des missions au profit de Frontex, l’Agence de surveillance des frontières européennes, en Grèce, pour gérer l’afflux de migrants.
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