'I have a two year-old girl and I thought I was going to die': witnesses describe terror of Paris attack

Barney Henderson
Forensic experts inspect the scene of the shooting - AP

Eyewitnesses have described the terror that spread along the Champs-Élysées the moment shooting began.

A gunman opened fire on police on Paris' iconic Champs-Élysées boulevard on Thursday night, killing one officer and wounding three people before police shot and killed him

The Islamic State terror group claimed responsibility for the attack, which took place just three days before the first round of a tense presidential election.

Badi Ftaiti, a Tunisian-born mason who has spent three decades in Paris, said people "were running, running....Some were crying. There were tens, maybe even hundreds of them."

Firefighters and rescuers stand by the site of a shooting on the Champs Elysees Credit: AFP

Asked whether the attack was evidence that "Paris isn't Paris" anymore, as claimed by Donald Trump, Mr Ftaiti said the US president was "barking up the wrong tree".

He said: "Paris is Paris. It's America that's not America."

Cyril, 40, a witness, said: “I was on the corner beside Marks and Spencer and Zara, waiting in my car for a friend, 10 or 15 metres from a police van. I saw a man all in black approaching the van as if he was asking for information, and he took out a Kalashnikov and fired, with his right hand.”

He added: “I started my car and pushed three or four other cars so I could do a U-turn. I’m totally certain he meant to kill the police. He was wearing a big black quileted coat and had hidden the gun under it.”

Another witness, Walid, came out of a café on the Champs-Élysées and saw people running from the scene. “I asked what was wrong and they said there was shooting. I was 50 or 100 metres from the gunman and I started to run with them. 

"Quite quickly we saw a helicopter over the area. Then police cars came and blocked off the area. There were a lot of sirens and flashing lights and people were terrified. No one knew if it was over or if more attacks were happening, the way they did in 2015.” "It could have been the end of me," said Chelloug, a kitchen assistant at a restaurant nearby. He said he hid behind a police vehicle after six shots from what sounded like a Kalashnikov, or AK, assault rifle.

"I came out of the Sephora shop and I was walking along the pavement.... A man got out of a car and opened fire with a kalashnikov on a policeman," he told Reuters.

"The policeman fell down. I heard six shots, I was afraid. I have a two year-old girl and I thought I was going to die... He shot straight at the police officer."

Another witness told the BBC: "We were moving towards the car and then I heard two or three shots, but I didn't realise they were shots. Then there was just panic all around.

"Everyone started running down the Champs-Élysées, just by instinct. I didn't stop to work out what was going on, I just ran too.

"There were some police already in place, blocking the road with their trucks so I just took shelter. I can't say what was going on back at the scene, I just had time to run away."

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