At least one policeman was killed and two others wounded after a gunman opened fire in the centre of the popular shopping district of Champs-Elysees in Paris on Thursday night.
Witnesses said a man got out of a car in the center of the Champs-Elysées and started shooting at a police bus stationed near a traffic light at 9 pm local Paris time. He was later ‘naturalized and killed’.
The incident is believed to have been fired outside a Marks & Spencer retail store on the shopping boulevard.
“An automatic weapon was used against police, a weapon of war,” French Interior Ministry spokesman Pierre-Henry Brandet told reporters.
Paris police were immediately deployed to the surrounding areas of the capital and warned locals and tourists to “avoid the area and comply with police instructions”.
Hours later, ISIS claimed it was responsible for the attack in central Paris, the group's Amaq news agency said. It identified the attacker as one of its soldiers naming him as “Abu Yusuf Al Baljiki” (Abu Yusuf the Belgian).
“Police officers are being deployed heavily in the surrounding streets near the Champs-Elysees with many fearing that there would be further organized attacks in Paris,” Al Arabiya’s Paris correspondent Hussein Kneiber reported.
Kneiber, who was reporting on Rue de Bassano where Al Arabiya’s Paris bureau office is located, said police officers chaotically removed journalists from the streets for fear that other suspects may be hiding in nearby buildings.
“Never in the past few years of reporting in Paris where were told to leave by police from an area with our arms raised in the air. The Paris police were full of panic, understandably, given the situation that another suspect may have been on the street or somewhere nearby,” Kneiber said.
A French interior ministry spokesman said it was too early to say what the motive of the gunman was, but that it was clear the police officers had been deliberately targeted.
France has been in a state of emergency since the ISIS-led Paris attacks of November 2015.
‘Surprising and worrying’
Paris-based journalist Mohammad Kalash told Al Arabiya that it was surprising the attacked was able to reach the center of Champs Elysees.
“At the center of Champs Elysees are usually three to four police patrol cars and so for an ISIS attacker to get so close and open fire with a reported ‘war weapon’ is surprising and worrying, especially given that we are only days before the French head to the polls,” Kalash told Al Arabiya.