Car rams Paris police vehicle; attacker dies
Elaine Ganley and Lori Hinnant, The Associated Press
Published Monday, June 19, 2017 10:29AM EDT
Last Updated Monday, June 19, 2017 2:47PM EDT
PARIS -- A man on the radar of French authorities was killed Monday after ramming a car carrying explosives into a police vehicle in the capital's Champs-Elysees shopping district, prompting a fiery blast, officials said. France's anti-terrorism prosecutor opened an investigation.
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No police officers or passers-by were hurt, the Paris police department said. It is unclear why the attacker drove into police, though officials said the incident was apparently deliberate.
Interior Minister Gerard Collomb said the man was killed after an attempted attack on a police convoy, saying that shows the threat is still very high in the country and justifies a state of emergency in place since 2015. He said he will present a bill Wednesday at a Cabinet meeting to extend the state of emergency from July 15, its current expiration date, until Nov. 1.
He says the current situation in France shows a new security law "is needed" and the measure would "maintain a high security level."
Two police officials told The Associated Press that a handgun was found on the driver, who they said was badly burned after the vehicle exploded. They identified the man as a 31-year-old man from the Paris suburb of Argenteuil who had an "S" file, meaning he was flagged for links to extremism.
The officials spoke on condition of anonymity to reveal details of the incident, the second this year on the city's most famous avenue, which is popular with tourists from around the world.
An attacker defending the Islamic State group fatally shot a police officer on the Champs-Elysees in April, days before a presidential election, prompting an extensive security operation.
On Monday, police cordoned off a broad swath of the Champs-Elysees after the latest incident, warning people to avoid the area.
Interior Ministry spokesman Pierre-Henry Brandet said the incident was apparently deliberate.
Police "pulled an individual out of the vehicle who had struck the car in front (of the convoy," Brandet told reporters. "Large numbers of police converged on the scene, firefighters to extinguish the fire."
A man could be seen lying on his stomach on the ground immediately after the incident, wearing a white shirt and dark shorts.
Hours later, access to the avenue remained blocked, while bomb squads combed the area.
Eric Favereau, a journalist for Liberation newspaper who was driving a scooter behind the gendarmes, said he saw a car blocking the convoy's path, then an implosion in the vehicle. Favereau wrote that the gendarmes smashed open the windows of the car while it was in flames and dragged out its occupant. Other gendarmes used fire extinguishers to put out the flames. The account didn't say what happened to the occupant of the car afterward.
Visitors to a nearby Auguste Rodin exhibit were confined inside the Grand Palais exhibit hall for an hour after the incident.
Victoria Boucher and daughter Chrystel came in from the suburb of Cergy-Pontoise for a Paris visit and weren't afraid to go to the famed avenue.
"We were better off inside than outside," Chrystel said. But both agreed as the mother said, "unfortunately we now are used to this."
"The show must go on," the daughter said in English. "They won't win."
Sylvie Corbet and Angela Charlton in Paris contributed
The latest updates on the security operation on Champs-Elysees (all times local):
Foreign tourists were confused and rattled by a car attack on Paris' Champs-Elysees -- but aren't letting that deter them from enjoying the City of Light.
A Brazilian couple with son in stroller and grandmother couldn't understand why they were blocked at the Grand Palais exhibition hall and barred from accessing the Champs-Elysees, where they had walked freely earlier in the day.
They were visibly shocked when informed.
"I'll go back to my hotel now," said Alexander Ferreira. He said they were in London shortly after the recent big attack there.
"It's not safe now, not just in France but in Europe. No one place is safe in the world."
However, he said the family would still visit the Eiffel Tower Monday night.
Visitors to an art exhibit of Auguste Rodin's works in central Paris were confined inside the Grand Palais for an hour after an attacker rammed into a police convoy on the nearby Champs-Elysees.
Victoria Boucher and daughter Chrystel said they're hoping the Champs-Elysees reopens soon. They came in from the suburb of Cergy-Pontoise for a Paris visit and weren't afraid to go to the famed avenue.
Chrystel said that "we were better off inside than outside." But both agreed as the mother said, "unfortunately we now are used to this."
"The show must go on," the daughter said in English. "They won't win."
The attacker was killed in Monday's incident.
France's interior minister says the attempted attack on security forces on the Champs-Elysees shows the threat is still very high in the country and justifies the state of emergency.
Gerard Collomb says he will present a bill Wednesday at a Cabinet meeting to extend the state of emergency from July 15, its current expiration date, until Nov. 1.
He says the current situation in France shows a new security law "is needed" and the measure would "maintain a high security level" beyond the end of the state of emergency.
France has been under a state of emergency since the November 2015 attacks by Islamic extremists in Paris.
Two French police officials say the man who rammed into a police convoy on Paris' Champs-Elysees was a 31-year-old man from a Paris suburb who had been flagged for extremism.
The officials identified the man as from the suburb of Argenteuil, and said he had an "S" file, which means authorities had been aware of potential links to extremism.
The officials spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the ongoing investigation into Monday's incident.
The interior minister said the man was killed in the incident.
By Lori Hinnant
France's interior minister says that a driver who rammed a car carrying explosives into a police convoy on the Champs-Elysees avenue has died after the "attempted attack" on security forces.
Gerard Collomb told reporters near the scene Monday that the man's motives weren't immediately clear.
Bomb squad officers are at the scene on the city's most famous avenue, which is popular with tourists. It was the second major incident on the avenue this year.
An attacker defending the Islamic State group shot and killed a police officer on the Champs-Elysees in April, days before a presidential election, prompting an extensive security operation.
A French security official says that the attacker on Champs-Elysees avenue is probably dead and the bomb squad is on the scene.
Interior Ministry spokesman Pierre-Henry Brandet says the driver whose car exploded as he tried to ram a police vehicle is "most probably" dead.
Brandet said bomb squads were still securing the scene. He said the attacker appeared to have acted deliberately.
France's anti-terrorism prosecutor has opened an investigation into the ramming of a police vehicle on Paris' Champs-Elysees avenue.
Authorities say a driver has rammed his car into a police vehicle in the Champs-Elysees shopping district. They say he has been arrested after being injured in a subsequent apparent clash with police.
The French national gendarmerie service says the driver of a car that rammed a law enforcement vehicle has been arrested.
The tweet Monday confirmed an attack had taken place on Paris' famed Champs-Elysees.
Police had earlier warned people to avoid the neighbourhood, one of the French capital's most popular with tourists. Paris police said neither gendarmes nor passers-by were injured.
Two French police officials have told The Associated Press that a suspected attacker drove into a police vehicle on the Champs-Elysees shopping district in Paris, and is now lying on the ground immobilized.
It is unclear the attacker has been killed or why he drove into the police Monday. The officials weren't authorized to be publicly named.
The suspect is wearing a white shirt and dark shorts and prone on his stomach on the avenue.
Police ringed the area as tourists and other onlookers gathered.
By Elaine Ganley and Lori Hinnant
Paris police say a security operation is underway in the Champs-Elysees shopping district and are urging people to avoid the area.
The police department tweeted the warning Monday without providing further details. The high-end neighborhood is popular with tourists.
#ChampsElysées Intervention en cours des services de police. Évitez le secteur— Préfecture de police (@prefpolice) June 19, 2017
The reason for the operation remains unclear.
A subway station in the area is closed.
An attacker defending the Islamic State group shot and killed a police officer on the Champs-Elysees in April, days before a presidential election, prompting an extensive security operation. France is under a state of emergency after a string of deadly Islamic extremist attacks.