Gunman had history of attacking cops

French police officers arriving at the home of the gunman in the eastern Paris suburb of Chelles. Three of his family members were taken into custody.
French police officers arriving at the home of the gunman in the eastern Paris suburb of Chelles. Three of his family members were taken into custody.PHOTO: REUTERS

PARIS • The man who shot dead a policeman on Paris' Champs Elysees on Thursday night was a French national who, according to sources close to the investigation, had a history of attempting to kill officers.

The Islamic State In Iraq and Syria terror group, which quickly claimed responsibility for the attack, identified the man as Abu-Yusuf al-Baljiki ( "the Belgian", in Arabic).

But Belgian Interior Minister Jan Jambon told public broadcaster VRT that even though investigations were continuing, officials had confirmed he was a French national.

The attacker was identified from papers left in his car. Reports said police also found a pump-action shotgun and knives in the vehicle.

French officials have refused to identify the attacker but he was named as Karim Cheurfi in many reports which said he was known to French intelligence, having previously come to the authorities' attention because of radical Islamist links.

Raids took place at the 39-year- old's home in the eastern Paris suburb of Chelles during the night and the French Interior Ministry said three of his family members had been taken into custody.

In the incident on Thursday, the gunman opened fire with an automatic weapon on a police van on Paris' most famous avenue. After killing the officer and injuring his colleagues just a few hundred metres from the Arc de Triomphe, the gunman was shot dead in return fire while trying to flee on foot, police sources told Agence France-Presse.

The gunman was not on the Fiche-S, the national list of people suspected of being a threat to national security, Britain's Guardian daily said.

Reuters, quoting French police sources, said he had been convicted of previous armed assaults on law enforcement officers going back 16 years. While in detention, he had shot a prison officer after seizing his gun.

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

Early yesterday, the authorities were looking for a second suspect in connection with the incident. A Belgian was initially identified as the suspect, but the authorities from Belgium said he had been misidentified and they were still trying to determine if any Belgians were involved.

VIDEO

Deadly shooting shuts down Champs Elysees.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 22, 2017, with the headline 'Gunman had history of attacking cops'. Print Edition | Subscribe