French prosecutors open terror probe after policewoman killed near Paris

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French prosecutors have begun a terrorism investigation into the fatal stabbing of a French police official at her station in Rambouillet, outside Paris. Police shot and killed the attacker at the scene.

Anti-terrorism prosecutor Jean-Francois Ricard told reporters that his office took over the probe because the attacker had staked out the station, because of statements he made during the attack, and because he targeted a police official.

Ricard did not provide details on the attacker's identity or motive. French media reports identified him as a 37-year-old Tunisia-born French resident with no criminal record or record of radicalisation.

French President Emmanuel Macron said France would never give in to "Islamist terrorism".

French Prime Minister Jean Castex rushed to the scene with other officials and pledged the government's “determination to fight terrorism in all its forms."

Islamist extremists have carried out multiple terror attacks in France recent years, including several targeting police.

'Face of France' attacked

The attack took place in the secure entrance area of the station at around 2:20 pm local time, a police source told AFP, asking not to be named.

The police officer killed Friday was a 49-year-old administrative employee who worked for the national police service, a national police spokesperson told The Associated Press.

“Police are symbols of the republic. They are France,” Valérie Pécresse, president of the Paris region, told reporters at the scene, adding: “The face of France” was targeted.

The attack comes as President Emmanuel Macron’s government is toughening its security policies amid voter concerns about crime and complaints from police that they face increasing danger.

The shift comes as France prepares for regional elections in June in which security is a big issue, and for a presidential election next year in which Macron's main challenger could be far-right leader Marine Le Pen, if he seeks a second term.

Spate of attacks

Several attacks over the last year have reignited concerns about the spread of radical Islam in France, as well as immigration.

In September, a Pakistani man wounded two people with a meat cleaver outside the former offices of satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo which had printed cartoons of the Prophet Mohamed.

On 16 October, a young Chechen refugee beheaded teacher Samuel Paty who had showed some The reports came after president of the caricatures to his pupils.

Two weeks later, three people were killed when a recently arrived Tunisian went on a stabbing spree in a church in the Mediterranean city of Nice.

These came after the massacres from 2015 that began with the attack on staff in the offices of Charlie Hebdo in January that year.

In France's deadliest peacetime atrocity, 130 people were killed and 350 were wounded when Islamist suicide bombers and gunmen attacked the Stade de France stadium, bars and restaurants in central Paris and the Bataclan concert hall in November 2015.

In 2016 a man rammed a truck into a Bastille Day crowd in Nice, killing 86 people.

President Emmanuel Macron's government has introduced legislation to tackle radical Islamist activity in France, a bill that has stirred anger in some Muslim countries.

(with AP)