One police officer has been killed and two seriously wounded in Paris after an attacker opened fire on the central boulevard of the Champs-Elysées.
Pierre-Henry Brandet, a spokesperson for the French Interior Ministry, refuted reports of two police officers dying in the incident.
The shooter was also killed, according to a police source, and was known to France’s DGSI security sources.
An arrest warrant has been issued for a second suspect. The warrant states the suspect arrived by train from Belgium.
The Paris prosecutor’s office says its anti-terrorist unit has opened an inquiry into the incident. President Hollande has said he is convinced it was a terrorist attack and will hold an emergency meeting of top security, defence and intelligence officials on Friday.
The attack comes barely three days before the first round of France’s presidential election on Sunday.
According to Reuters, the so-called Islamic State has claimed via the Amaq news agency that one of its “fighters” carried out the attack, naming him as “The Belgian”.
The French interior ministry spokesman said at around midnight that no information circulating concerning the attacker’s identity had been confirmed.
On Twitter, the police union has said the officer was killed while in a vehicle stopped at a red light, by an attacker driving past.
Later reports suggested a car pulled up by a stationary police minivan. An attacker is then said to have opened fire with an automatic weapon.
Police checked the assailant’s car for explosives.
Search underway, motive unclear
Police began a search of the dead attacker’s home, in the northern 18th district, shortly after the shooting, reports suggest.
Three police sources confirmed to Reuters that it could have been an attempted armed robbery.
Brandet confirmed the police officers were deliberately targeted. However, the French Interior Ministry says it is too early to give a clear motive for the attack.
According to a police source, shots were fired over an hour later at a different location, near the Champs-Elysées. However, Brandet confirmed there was only one incident being investigated in relation to the police shooting.
Location of the shooting
The first shots are believed to have been fired outside Marks and Spencer on the famous boulevard.
Authorities asked people to stay away from the area.
No vehicles or pedestrians were allowed onto the Champs-Elysées in the wake of the incident. Several metro stations have been shut down as a safety measure. The area was placed on lockdown.
Intervention de police en cours sur le secteur des #ChampsElysees Evitez le secteur et respectez les consignes des forces de police— Préfecture de police (@prefpolice) April 20, 2017
A low-flying helicopter was seen over the road shortly after the incident, Reuters reports. The news agency says it appeared to be part of a follow-up police operation.
Eyewitnesses reported being held indoors in parts of the capital in the immediate vicinity of the Champs-Elysées, including a cinema on the nearby rue Lincoln.
Armed officers taking position behind a kiosk. pic.twitter.com/Gf2ykCOq61— Ralph (@vanderpauw) 20 Nisan 2017
Coming back from a run, Champs Elysées is a mess.. #paris pic.twitter.com/CTwRuqDCAQ— Ralph (@vanderpauw) 20 Nisan 2017
Figures suggest death by shooting is not a regular occurrence among French police officers. In 2015, six officers were killed by gunfire.
The statistics for 2016 are not yet available.
The shooting comes a matter of days before the first round of the French presidential election, which is taking place on April 23.
Security has been high on the agenda in the run-up to the vote.
New US President Donald Trump offered his condolences to the people of France, saying it “looked like” another terrorist attack. Italian Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni, who was with Trump, also offered his sympathy.