Shooting On Paris' Champs Elysees Leaves 1 Police Officer Dead, 2 Wounded

Apr 20, 2017
Originally published on April 20, 2017 4:35 pm
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ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

In Paris, three police officers have been shot days before the French presidential election. The French interior ministry says the officers were shot by a man as they sat in a police van on the Champs-Elysees, the famous boulevard in the center of Paris. One of the officers died on the scene. The other two were seriously injured, as was one pedestrian, according to French authorities. ISIS has claimed responsibility for the attack.

NPR's Eleanor Beardsley is on the Champs-Elysees and joins us now. Eleanor, what more can you tell us about the incident?

ELEANOR BEARDSLEY, BYLINE: Well, Ari, like you said, a gunman came up in a car, shot at policeman and killed one, wounded two others. The French president, Francois Hollande, has come on television saying it is definitely a terrorist attack and is under a terrorist investigation. They were clearly targeting the police.

You know, France is three days away from a presidential election, and it is now under - everyone around the world is watching this country, so anyone who wants to get noticed could be doing something like that. So there are thousands - 50,000 extra police out on the streets in front of this election ahead of this election, and everyone is on edge right now.

SHAPIRO: And as we've said, ISIS claimed responsibility for the attack. What do we know about the man who carried it out?

BEARDSLEY: Ari, right now, we don't know anything about the man who carried it out. It could be anyone. But two days ago, police arrested two men in Marseille who had an arsenal in their apartment - guns, explosives. And the Paris prosecutor said they were ready to carry out an imminent attack ahead of the elections. So right now people are wondering, you know, if this is - well, as the Islamic State claimed the attack, it could be some - another terrorist like the ones in Marseille.

SHAPIRO: We should say in the claim of responsibility by ISIS, they mentioned a name of the attacker and said that he was from Belgium. Eleanor, you said this is three days before the presidential election. What could the possible political implications be?

BEARDSLEY: Ari, we don't know exactly what they could be. No one's said exactly. But the world's eyes are on France right now, and so anyone who wants to be noticed would do something in France right now. As you know, France has been under a state of emergency since 2015 November where there was a major terrorist attack. There have been three major terrorist attacks in the last two years in France. So anyone who wanted to be noticed would attack this country right now, and that's all we can say.

All the presidential candidates have called off their meetings for tomorrow. The vote is on Sunday, and today is the last day of campaigning, and everyone has called it off to, you know, hold...

SHAPIRO: Services...

BEARDSLEY: In honor...

SHAPIRO: ...Memorials, vigils.

BEARDSLEY: Yeah, exactly. There's a policeman who has died.

SHAPIRO: How much has security and the threat of terrorism been a part of this campaign?

BEARDSLEY: You know, it hasn't really been a big part. You know, they have put extra security on, but people have been talking - the candidates have been talking about the economy and other things, the European Union. It hasn't been a huge part, although it's in the back of everyone's mind. But this has brought it to the forefront again. The attack two days ago brought it to the forefront that it is...

SHAPIRO: All right.

BEARDSLEY: ...A big deal.

SHAPIRO: NPR's Eleanor Beardsley on the Champs-Elysees in Paris, thank you very much.

BEARDSLEY: You're welcome, Ari. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.