Police seek possible accomplices of Paris gunman

Masked police stand on top of their vehicle on the Champs Elysees Avenue after a shooting incident in Paris
Masked police stand on top of their vehicle on the Champs Elysees Avenue after a policeman was killed and two others were wounded in a shooting incident in Paris, France, April 20, 2017. REUTERS/Christian Hartmann

April 21, 2017

By Emmanuel Jarry and John Irish

PARIS (Reuters) – Investigators are trying to find out whether the man who shot dead a policeman in Paris had accomplices, a prosecutor said, adding that he had shown no previous signs of radicalization despite a long prison record.

The gunman, identified as Karim Cheurfi, opened fire on a police vehicle parked on the Champs Elysees in Paris late on Thursday, killing one officer and injuring two others before being shot dead.

The attack, which was claimed by Islamic State, overshadowed the last day of campaigning for Sunday’s presidential election first round.

Cheurfi, 39, a French national who lived with his mother in the eastern Paris suburb of Chelles, had spent some 14 years in prison from 2001 for crimes including gun attacks on law enforcement officers.

“The investigations will now focus on determining … the potential help that he may have benefited from,” Paris Prosecutor Francois Molins told a news conference on Friday.

“He was not on the security watch list and had shown no signs of radicalization despite his many years in prison.”

But Molins confirmed police had found a note with handwritten messages defending Islamic State near his body, addresses of police establishments in his car and a Koran.

Police believe he had “opened fire on the officers in the knowledge he would be killed by them”, a source close to the investigation said.

As well as the assault rifle used in the attack, a pump action shotgun and knives were in his car, Molins said. Three of his family have been placed in detention, the French interior ministry said.

Cheurfi served 10 years in prison after firing on two plainclothes officers in 2001 as they tried to apprehend him in a stolen car. While in detention, he shot and wounded a prison officer after seizing his gun.

Released on probation in 2015 from a further two-year jail term imposed for lesser offences, Cheurfi was arrested again in February after threatening to kill police officers – but released for lack of evidence.

Before that arrest he had travelled to Algeria for about a month despite probation conditions forbidding him to leave the country, Molins said, adding that the judge had opted not to send Cheurfi back to prison.

CONFUSION OVER ISLAMIC STATE CLAIM

Molins made no comment on other potential suspects. A French interior ministry spokesman initially confirmed on Friday that a second man was being sought, based on information from Belgian security services.

“It’s too early to say how or whether he was connected to what happened on the Champs Elysees,” ministry spokesman Pierre-Henry Brandet said. “There are a certain number of leads to check. We are not ruling anything out.”

A potential second suspect was identified as Youssouf El Osri in a document seen by Reuters. Belgian security officials had warned French counterparts before the attack that El Osri was a “very dangerous individual en route to France” aboard the Thalys high-speed train.

The warning was circulated more widely among French security services in the hour following the Champs Elysees attack.

Brandet later told BFM TV that a man with that name had turned himself in at a police station in Antwerp and was no longer being searched for in France.

Islamic State, which has hundreds of French-speaking fighters, claimed responsibility for the Champs Elysees shooting soon afterwards, in a statement identifying the attacker as “Abu Yousif al-Belgiki (the Belgian)”.

El Osri’s connection with either the downed assailant or the man named by Islamic State remained unclear on Friday.

“We don’t understand why Islamic State has identified the wrong person,” said a police source. “What does seem clear is that Islamic State was planning something.”

Coming just days after police said they had foiled another planned Islamist attack, arresting two men in the southern city of Marseille, the Champs Elysees shooting dominated the final day of election campaigning.

Conservative candidate Francois Fillon and Marine Le Pen, leader of the far-right National Front, both talked tough on law and order while centrist front-runner Emmanuel Macron stressed he was also up to the challenge.

(Additional reporting by Gerard Bon and Yves Clarisse; Editing by Andrew Callus)

  • Clinicaleducator1

    Paris is a rats nest. The gunman lived with mommy and daddy. He WAS 39. Me thinks mommy and daddy need a deportation back to their homeland. Unless you LIKE RATS!!!

  • Old Man 77

    This is solid reporting. You all should hire Bill O’Reilly…..

  • old409

    The only thing to do is round them all up and kick them out,every last one. You cannot name one country where these people exist, in any number, where they aren’t causing problems. They cannot even live in peace among themselves.

  • tedlv

    Why was this terrorist let out of jail in the first place. Frogs are self destructive nuts.

  • Another terror attack. It’s hard to imagine France won’t take action this time.

    • Flagfriend

      You have an optimistic spirit. France has a history of surrendering to their enemies.

  • ELMO

    ELMO likes OAN. News without an agenda, how refreshing.

    • tedlv

      Beware of the illiterate idiot troll Jay.

  • Jack Green

    I agree there are radical Muslims wishing us all ill will. I still believe there is still a small percentage that feel this way. Why was he still walking the streets after committing the crimes he has been found GUILTY of? Maybe France needs to get one of their guillotines out of a museum and limber them up.

  • guru on a hill

    I wonder what you have to do to get life in prison in France? Wow!

  • Philip Voida

    WE WILL HAVE TO SMOKE THEM, THIS IS A WORLDWIDE WAR OF MUSLIMS VERSUS ALL OTHERS, THERE IS NO WAY AROUND THIS FACT. TO BE MUSLIM IS TO BE ACTIVELY FOR THE DESTRUCTION, CONVERSION OR SUBJUGATION OFF ALL OTHER PEOPLE.