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TERRORISTS appear to have once again struck at the heart of Paris, shooting one police officer dead and seriously injuring two others on the iconic Champs Elysees boulevard, just three days before France heads to the polls to elect a new president.
And gunfire was heard in a second location nearby, French media is reporting.
Police officers guarding a metro station in the centre of the Champs Elysees shopping district were gunned down about 9pm Thursday Paris time (5am Friday AEST), when the area was busy with people visiting restaurants and bars.
They were thought to have been in a van when a car pulled up nearby and a gunman emerged.
The gunman was also killed, but it is possible at least one accomplice may have escaped.
One officer was pronounced dead at the scene, while the two injured officers are being treated in hospital with at least one fighting for their life. The car was abandoned at the scene.
The incident comes despite France being on red alert for a possible terrorist attack in the final countdown to Sunday’s first-round presidential election.
Police sources told French media it appeared the incident was terror-related and the dead man was known to police and security officials.
There were other reports it may have been an armed robbery gone wrong, but police have launched a terrorism inquiry and all indications are that it is terror-related.
One leading presidential candidate, National Front’s Marine Le Pen, is campaigning against mass Muslim migration and has been repeatedly warning of a terror attack.
The attack occurred on the most famous avenue in Paris, not far from another landmark, the Arc de Triomphe.
Like the attacks in late 2015 on the Bataclan Theatre and the 10th arrondissement restaurants, it appeared designed to strike at the cultural heart of one of Europe’s most important cities.
Paris police spokeswoman Johanna Primevert told The Associated Press the gunman targeted police who were guarding the area near the Franklin Roosevelt metro station.
Paris police used Twitter to ask people to stay away.
“Police operation taking place in the Champs Elysee area,” they said.
“Avoid the area and comply with police instructions.”
Interior Ministry spokesman Pierre-Henry Brandet, said: “The attacker was shot dead by police and the area remains cordoned off.’’
Mr Brandet said a robbery may have been carried out at the same time as the attack but it is not clear if the two are linked.
French TV channel BFM broadcast footage of the Arc de Triomphe monument and top half of the Champs Elysees packed with police vans, lights flashing and heavily armed police shutting the area down after what was described by one journalist as a major exchange of fire near a Marks and Spencers store.
A witness identified only as Ines told French television station BFM she heard gunshots and saw a man’s body on the ground before police quickly evacuated the area.
US President Donald Trump condemned the shooting, saying: “It just never ends. We have to be strong and we have to be vigilant.”
President Francois Hollande called an emergency Cabinet security meeting in the Elysee Palace, and police were believed to be searching a home in east Paris that belonged to the gunman.
A month ago, a would-be terrorist shot and wounded a police officer at a roadblock before being shot dead after attacking three soldiers at Orly Airport in suburban Paris.
The attack came three days before the first round of balloting in France’s tense presidential election.
Security in France is high preceding the vote after police said they arrested two men on Tuesday in what they described as a thwarted terror attack.
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, which have killed more than 230 people.
http://www.news .com .au/world/europe/paris-shooting-policeman-shot-dead-at-champs-elysees-days-out-from-french-elections/news-story/27ade5070bf2098eb813a114c5c650e2
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