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Photo: AFP
The leading five candidates, left to right: Fillon, Macron, Mélenchon, Le Pen and Hamon
Photo: AFP
Following Paris shooting, French presidential hopefuls go on attack
The deadly attack, in which a police officer and the shooter were killed, has mainly brought presidential contenders to promise more security while voicing their disapproval of their running mates, as they gear up for Saturday's first round of first voting; anonymous police sources say killer was previously detained by police.

Thursday's machine gun attack in Paris's Champs-Élysées Boulevard, in which a police officer and the shooter was killed, is deepening France's political divide, with presidential nominees reacting to the incident by going after the other nominees and promising to bring about change and security. The first round of voting is set to take place on Saturday.

 

 

French presidential hopeful Emmanuel Macron, of the social liberal party En Marche! has called on the French people not to succumb to fear, division and intimidation.

 

The leading five candidates, left to right: Fillon, Macron, Mélenchon, Le Pen and Hamon (Photo: AFP)
The leading five candidates, left to right: Fillon, Macron, Mélenchon, Le Pen and Hamon (Photo: AFP)

 

Following the shootings of police officers in Paris, which came just two days before the first round of the presidential election, Macron said in a video posted online: "the terrorist's will is to destabilize the country".

 

"In such circumstances, the role of the president of the Republic as the army chief and guardian of our institutions is to protect the French. I am ready," he said.

 

Macron, an independent centrist considered as one of the front-runners, recalled a series of security measures listed in his campaign platform: boost police and military forces and intelligence services, and pursue France's military operations against ISIS in Iraq and Syria.

 

French conservative candidate Francois Fillon has pledged to keep the country under a state of emergency following the shooting of police officers Thursday in Paris.

 

In a statement at his campaign headquarters, Fillon said "the fight for the French people's freedom and security will be mine. This must be the priority" of the next president.

 

Fillon promised to boost police and military forces.

 

He also said that, if elected, he would launch a "diplomatic initiative" aiming to create an international collaboration against Islamic extremists that would include all major actors, including the United States, the European Union, Russia, Iran, Turkey and the Gulf countries.

 

Far-right presidential candidate Marine Le Pen called on the government to restore France's borders immediately following the shooting of Paris officers in Paris.

 

The leader of the National Front wants France to exit the European passport-free Schengen area.

 

Shortly after the attack (Photo: AFP)
Shortly after the attack (Photo: AFP)

 

In a statement from her campaign headquarter in Paris, she asked the government and judicial authorities to handle the case of all individuals on the French territory known for "their adhesion to the enemy's ideology".

 

Le Pen stated she seeks to have foreigners signaled as Islamic radicals expelled from the country and French nationals identified for the same reason to face trial.

 

After Le Pen spoke scathingly earlier Friday of the government's fight against extremism, socialist Prime Minister Bernard Cazeneuve noted that Le Pen's party in 2014 voted against an anti-terrorism law and, in 2015, against a law that beefed up resources for French intelligence services.

 

"She seems to be deliberately forgetting everything that has been done over five years to make people forget that she opposed everything, without ever proposing anything serious or credible," he said.

 

He added that "She seeks, without shame, to exploit fear and emotions for purely political ends."

 

Far-left politician Jean-Luc Mélenchon said the candidates should not cave in to violence.

 

"As we wait for more definite information, I think we need to attend to our duties as citizens: no panic, we shouldn't interrupt our democratic process," Mélenchon said.

 

Socialist long-shot Benoit Hamon, for his part, tweeted his “full support” to police against terrorism.

 

Meanwhile, French President Francois Hollande visited a police officer who was seriously injured in Thursday's attack.

 

The president's office said Hollande went to the Hospital Georges-Pompidou with Prime Minister Bernard Cazeneuve and Interior Minister Matthias Fekl. The officer was one of two wounded in the attack, along with a German tourist. One police officer was killed before officers shot and killed the attacker.

 

Hollande also went to Paris police headquarters to pay tribute to police forces.

 

The two top contenders Sunday will advance to the runoff on May 7.

 

Confusion over ISIS claim of responsibility

A potential second suspect was identified as Youssouf El Osri. 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 Élysées attack.

 

Brandet later told BFM TV that a man with that name had turned himself in at a police station in Antwerp.

 

ISIS, which has hundreds of French-speaking fighters, claimed responsibility for the Champs Élysées 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 ISIS (also known as the 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."

 

ISIS has been losing territory in Iraq and Syria and has seen the number of foreign recruits, notably from Europe, dwindle.

 

The swift claim indicated the group may have been trying to capitalize on the widespread attention from a high-profile attack at a time when Islamic extremism and security are at the center of France's presidential campaign.

 

French officials: Gunman was previously detained

Two French officials have stated the gunman who shot and killed a police officer on the Champs- Élysées was detained in February for threatening police then freed.

 

The officials spoke Friday on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to publicly discuss details of the probe into Thursday night's attack.

 

The officials said the gunman was detained toward the end of February after speaking threateningly about the police but then released for lack of evidence.

 

He was convicted in 2003 of attempted homicide in shootings on two police officers.

 

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