Champs-Élysées incident: Attacker dies after ramming police van with car carrying 'explosive device and guns'

Officials said the attacker rammed his car, which was found to be full of explosives, into a convoy of police vehicles

Adam Withnall,Lizzie Dearden
Monday 19 June 2017 16:15
Champs-Élysées incident: Area cleared after attacker 'downed'

A man has died after attempting to carry out an attack on security forces on Paris’s Champs-Élysées avenue.

Officials said the attacker rammed his car, which was found to be carrying explosives, into a convoy of police vehicles.

Le Parisien reported that two gas cannisters were also discovered inside the man’s car, as well as a Kalashnikov and handguns.

Images from the scene showed a light-grey four-door saloon with windows smashed standing isolated in the middle of the iconic street, and other graphic photographs showed the badly burned body of a man in white shirt and dark shorts lying on the ground nearby.

A counter-terror investigation has been opened into the incident in which no one else was injured, and France’s interior ministry said the 31-year-old-perpetrator was known to officials.

Éric Favereau, a journalist for Libération 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 from what may have been a botched attempt at a suicide car bombing.

Mr 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.

An implosion in the car may have been a botched attempt at a suicide bombing (AFP/Getty)

Two police officials said that a handgun was found on the driver.

The suspected attacker, who has yet to be named, was described as being from the Argenteuil suburb of the French capital. The man was subject to an “S” file, meaning authorities were at some point monitoring him for potential links to extremism.

Police quickly evacuated the Champs-Élysées on Monday afternoon amid initial reports of a car on fire.

A cordon was being extended across the shopping district down to the Place de la Concorde, while authorities urged people to avoid the area using official social media channels.

The nearest Metro station to the incident, Champs-Élysées – Clemenceau, was closed.

Book-ended by the iconic Arc de Triomphe to the northwest and the seat of French government to the southeast, the Champs-Élysées is popular with tourists.

An attacker pledging allegiance to Isis shot and killed a police officer on the Champs-Élysées in April, days before the presidential election, prompting an extensive security operation.

France’s interior minister said the latest attempted attack on security forces showed the threat was still very high in the country and justified the repeatedly extended state of emergency.

Gérard Collomb said he will present a bill Wednesday at a Cabinet meeting to extend the state of emergency from 15 July, its current expiration date, until 1 November.

He said the current situation in France showed a new long term 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 Isis extremists in Paris.

The atrocity was followed by the Nice attack, the terrorist murders of a police officer and Catholic priest, and several attempted attacks on soldiers guarding sensitive sites, including a hammer rampage outside Notre-Dame Cathedral earlier this month.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for Monday’s attempt, which follows Isis’ call for intensified global terror attacks during the Islamic holy month of Ramadan.

Analysts have warned that as the group loses swathes of territory across Iraq and Syria it will increasingly turn to atrocities as a way of maintaining momentum.

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