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Champs-Élysées shooter did not appear to be radicalised - police

French CRS police patrol the Champs Elysees Avenue the day after a policeman was killed and two others were wounded in a shooting incident in Paris, France, April 21, 2017.
French CRS police patrol the Champs Elysees Avenue the day after a policeman was killed and two others were wounded in a shooting incident in Paris, France, April 21, 2017. REUTERS/Benoit Tessier

The suspect in a gun attack on the Champs-Élysées that left a policeman dead was long known to the police but had shown "no sign" of radicalisation, Paris Prosecutor François Molins said on Friday.

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Molins said that investigators were still working to determine if the man had acted in concert with others.
"Investigations will now focus on determining [whether he had] the benefit of possible accomplices," Molins told the press conference.

He added that the suspect, 39-year-old Karim C., had not been on France's official Fiche S watch list of those being monitored by security services.

The shooter opened fire with an automatic weapon on a police van on the famous Champs-Élysées avenue at around 9pm Paris time on Thursday.

After killing a police officer and injuring his two colleagues just a few hundred metres from the Arc de Triomphe, the gunman was shot dead while trying to flee on foot, according to the police.

A note found near the suspect's body had handwritten messages expressing support for the Islamic State group, Molins said. A statement published by its propaganda agency Amaq also said the attacker was "one of the Islamic State's fighters".

Soon after, police launched a raid on the suspect's home in a middle-class neighbourhood in a suburb east of Paris.

Karim C. had previously served nearly 14 years in prison on three counts of attempted murder, including of police officers, as well as for lesser offences.

"Police unions say there is a problem because the assailant was convicted several times – saying he wanted to attack the police – but was released anyway," he explained.

Neighbours react

Karim Cheurfi, 39, was described as an oddball by his neighbours in the multi-ethnic suburb of Chelles east of Paris, about a 30-minute train ride from the centre of the City of Light.

"Everyone knew him here," said one resident in the quiet area where Cheurfi lived with his mother. "It was someone who had lost all reason, who was psychologically very damaged," said the resident, asking not to be named.

Another local man, Salim, described him as "nuts" and someone never seen at the local mosque, while fellow resident Abdel said Cheurfi had been influenced by his repeated experiences in prison.

"He hated the police and France," 23-year-old Abdel said, yet he found it hard to believe he was linked to the Islamic State group, which claimed the attack a few hours after the shooting on Thursday evening.

Salim, who said he knew Cheurfi's cousin, said the gunman "could hardly use a remote controller for the television. Go on the internet and contact esh (Islamic State)? I can't see it."

After shooting a policeman dead with an automatic weapon and injuring two others on Thursday night, Cheurfi was killed in return fire. A hand-written note praising IS was found near his body.

Plots thwarted

French authorities claim they have thwarted on average one plot every month since December 2015 when a wave of Islamist-inspired violence began.

In January 2015, gunmen targeted the Charlie Hebdo satirical magazine and a Jewish supermarket, which was followed by atrocities around Paris including at the Bataclan concert hall in November of the same year.

In July 2016, a self-radicalised extremist drove a truck through crowds watching fireworks in the southern city of Nice, killing 86.

 

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