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Hollande: 'Cowardly Killing' in Paris Was Terrorism

  • VOA Staff

Police officers and riot police officers, right, patrol on the Champs Elysees boulevard in Paris, April 21, 2017.

A Belgium man wanted in connection with the terrorist attack on Paris' Champs Elysees has turned himself in to authorities in Antwerp.

A Belgium prosecutor said Friday the "man came to police late yesterday after he saw himself appear on social media as terror suspect Number One . . ." Further information about the suspect and his connection with the attack was not immediately available.

Islamic State, which claimed responsibility through its news agency, identified the shooter as "Abu Yussef the Belgian," calling him "one of Islamic State's fighters." Paris police said the dead gunman has been identified, but they have not released his name or said if he was working with Islamic State.

Police have detained and questioned three family members of the gunman who was shot and killed in the attack.

The Champs-Elysees, Paris' most iconic boulevard, was returning to its normal activities Friday, after a gunman killed one policeman and wounded two others on the world-famous street.

French President Francois Hollande said he is convinced the “cowardly killing” was an act of terrorism. The French leader Friday called together the government’s security council and his would-be successors in the presidential election campaign to discuss if, and how, the attack might impact voting intentions.

Hollande’s defense and security council meeting was part of government efforts to protect Sunday’s vote, taking place under heightened security.

“We shall be of the utmost vigilance, especially in relation to the election,” he told the nation on television.

Marine Le Pen, France's far-right, populist presidential candidate, said in a radio interview Friday, "France, has again known the barbarism of a terrorist attack at the very heart of our capital." Le Pen who has spoken in increasingly inflammatory terms during her campaign, said the police targeted in the attack "have paid the price of the fight against radical Islamism, this monstrous, totalitarian ideology that has declared war on our nation, on reason and civilization."

Centrist candidate Emmanuel Macron urged the country not to "give in to fear." Macron suspended two rallies after the shooting on the Champs Elysees.

“Nothing must hamper this democratic moment, essential for our country,” Prime Minister Bernard Cazeneuve said, appealing for national unity and for people “not to succumb to fear.”

“The whole of Europe is targeted because it represents the values and ideals of peace,” he said.

U.S. Vice President Mike Pence, speaking Friday in Jakarta, said the attack in Paris was the latest reminder that terrorism can strike anywhere and at any time. He said the U.S. would not relent in its efforts to end terrorism.

In Washington, President Donald Trump sent condolences to the French people. He called the attack "a terrible thing," and said it was another example of the sort of violence that "never ends."

French President Francois Hollande (right) is surrounded by ministers and officials as they hold a defense council at the Elysee Palace in Paris, April 21, 2017.
French President Francois Hollande (right) is surrounded by ministers and officials as they hold a defense council at the Elysee Palace in Paris, April 21, 2017.

More weapons found

Piecing together reports from witnesses, investigators said a gunman jumped out of a car near a subway station and opened fire on a police vehicle with a machine gun. He was killed by police gunfire.

Investigators found a pump-action shotgun and knives in the car of the gunman who targeted police on the Champs-Elysees, and were working to determine whether he had accomplices.

Islamic State, which claimed responsibility through its news agency, identified the shooter as “Abu Yussef the Belgian,” calling him “one of Islamic State’s fighters.”

Paris police said the dead gunman has been identified, but they have not released his name or said if he was working with Islamic State.

Investigators searched a home early Friday in an eastern suburb of Paris believed linked to the attack. A police document obtained by The Associated Press identifies the address searched in the town of Chelles as the family home of Karim Cheurfi, a 39-year-old with a criminal record.

Champs-Elysees reopens

Police closed off a large part of the Champs-Elysees Thursday. The boulevard is popular with residents and tourists for its fashionable shops and restaurants.

On Friday, municipal workers in white hygiene suits were out before dawn to wash down the sidewalk where the assault took place. Delivery trucks did their early morning rounds; everything would have seemed normal were it not for the row of TV trucks parked along the boulevard.

U.S. Vice President Mike Pence, speaking Friday in Jakarta, said the attack in Paris was the latest reminder that terrorism can strike anywhere and at any time.He said the U.S. would not relent in its efforts to end terrorism.

In Washington, President Donald Trump sent condolences to the French people. He called the attack “a terrible thing,” and said it was another example of the sort of violence that “never ends.”

France is on edge ahead of Sunday’s presidential election, with a very close outcome expected. The country is still feeling the effects of a series of deadly Islamic terrorist attacks over the past two years that killed more than 200 people.

Some material for this report came from the Associated Press.

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