Tourists return to Champs Elysees after deadly attack

News of Thursday's gunman attack in Paris reached French presidential candidates during a televised debate, just days before Sunday's election.VIDEO: REUTERS
Dozens of emergency and security vehicles rushed to Paris' Champs Elysees on Thursday night after a gunman opened fire, killing a police officer and wounding two others. Security remains high in Paris after the shooting, ahead of the French president
Dozens of emergency and security vehicles rushed to Paris' Champs Elysees on Thursday night after a gunman opened fire, killing a police officer and wounding two others. Security remains high in Paris after the shooting, ahead of the French presidential election tomorrow. All elite units have been mobilised while 50,000 police officers on special election duty work to keep voters safe.PHOTOS: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS
Dozens of emergency and security vehicles rushed to Paris' Champs Elysees on Thursday night after a gunman opened fire, killing a police officer and wounding two others. Security remains high in Paris after the shooting, ahead of the French president
Dozens of emergency and security vehicles rushed to Paris' Champs Elysees on Thursday night after a gunman opened fire, killing a police officer and wounding two others. Security remains high in Paris after the shooting, ahead of the French presidential election tomorrow. All elite units have been mobilised while 50,000 police officers on special election duty work to keep voters safe.PHOTOS: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS

Many shocked but react calmly after shooting on Paris boulevard that killed police officer

PARIS (AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS) • Tourists were back on the Champs Elysees early yesterday with a mixture of shock and defiance, a day after an Islamist militant shot dead a policeman on the world-famous avenue just ahead of a presidential election in France.

"I needed to get out, to come back here and see the sunshine and that everything was okay," said Lebanese tourist Zeina Bitar, 45, who was shopping on the boulevard with her children when the gunman struck.

Nearby, a police officer laid a white rose at the site where the gunman, armed with an automatic weapon, killed his comrade, unleashing a firefight in which the assailant was killed and two other officers were wounded.

"We heard the shots and people were running in every direction," said Ms Bitar, adding that her children were in tears. "But people were calm, we were well treated and they gave us hot chocolate."

Under a cloudless spring sky, the dozens of emergency and security vehicles of the night before had been replaced by media trucks on the glitzy tree-lined avenue - a symbol of Paris. Passers-by snapped pictures of shop windows punctured by bullet holes.

"What's happening here?" asked Indian tourist Chaintnya Veeraghanta, 25, who was unaware of the shooting.

"I knew there were terrorism attacks in France last year, but I thought it was over."

More than 230 people have been killed in militant attacks in France since early 2015, leading to a ramping up of security, with thousands of troops deployed to patrol key sites. Even though visitor numbers have suffered as a result of the string of attacks, tourist sites in Paris have mostly been spared from the carnage.

Another tourist Eric Winkler, 51, an American visiting the French capital from Boston, told Agence France-Presse: "It was scary. We heard the shots so we ran to our hotel... and found out it was terrorism by watching the news."

But he and his 16-year-old daughter Hailey took it in their stride.

"It's happening all over the world, also in America," Mr Winkler said. "We have to deal with it, they're not going to stop us from living and doing what we want to do."

Ms Bitar's friend Pascale Saad, 42, also from Lebanon, said she was worried about the impact the attack would have on the French election, starting with its first round of voting tomorrow.

"I really don't know what's going to happen on Sunday," she said. "I'm afraid that things will degenerate and that people will all vote for Marine Le Pen."

She was referring to the far-right presidential hopeful, who is seen as the most hardline candidate on the issue of terror attacks and advocates harsh limits on immigration.

 

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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 'Tourists return to Champs Elysees after deadly attack'. Print Edition | Subscribe