Friday, Apr. 21, 2017

The Latest: Macron urges the French not to give in to fear

By The Associated Press

PARIS (AP) — The Latest on the shootings of police officers in Paris (all times local):

1:45 p.m.

French presidential hopeful Emmanuel Macron has called on the French people not to succumb to fear, division and intimidation.

One day after the shootings of police officers in Paris and 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 the Islamic state group in Iraq and Syria.

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

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1:40 p.m.

The Champs-Elysees attack is deepening France's political divide, with the Socialist prime minister tearing into far-right presidential candidate Marine Le Pen, accusing the National Front leader of seeking to make political hay from the assault.

After Le Pen spoke scathingly earlier Friday of the government's fight against extremism, 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 "as after every drama, the National Front candidate seeks to profit ... to divide. She seeks, without shame, to exploit fear and emotions for purely political ends."

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12:35 p.m.

Belgium's interior minister says Islamic State gave a false name for the man who attacked police on Paris' Champs-Elysees.

Islamic State's claim of responsibility came just a few hours after the attack — far more quickly than other similar claims — and the statement gave the attacker a pseudonym that would mean he was Belgian or had ties to Belgium.

Belgian Interior Minister Jan Jambon said Friday, "The guy who yesterday did the act was not a Belgian. He was French."

Asked about the Abu Yusuf Al-Beljiki pseudonym given by IS, Jambon said he "is certainly not the guy who committed the crime yesterday."

IS 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.

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11:55 a.m.

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.

France has been under a state of emergency since the 2015 attacks by Islamic extremists in Paris.

Fillon hopes his experience as prime minister from 2007 to 2012 and hardline views on security issues will give his campaign a boost, just two days before the first round of the vote.

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

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11:25 a.m.

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.

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".

She wants foreigners signaled as Islamic radicals to be expelled from the country and French nationals identified for the same reason to face trial.

Le Pen, who has campaigned on anti-immigration views and a strong security stance, is seeking to give her campaign a last boost ahead of Sunday's vote for the first round of the presidential election. Latest polls suggest she is in a position to be among the two top contenders and advance to the May 7 runoff.

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11:10 a.m.

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

The officials spoke Friday to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because they weren't 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.

Police shot and killed the gunman after he opened fire on a police van on Paris' most famous boulevard. The Islamic State group quickly claimed responsibility for the attack.

10:55 a.m.

Far-left presidential candidate Philippe Poutou is blaming French politics for the deadly attack on Paris' Champs-Elysees, in which a police officer and the attacker were killed.

Poutou, a car-factory worker backed by anti-capitalist party NPA, says the roots of extremist attacks are neither in mosques nor migrant camps. He said: "They are in the situation of external and internal war maintained by the state, and in the injustice and discriminations maintained in the suburbs."

Poutou says the French state has to share the blame for attacks because it discriminates against people living in impoverished suburbs because of "their skin color or origins," takes military action in Africa and the Middle East and sells arms to dictatorships.

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10:50 a.m.

The Belgian man who had been linked by some as an accomplice to the Paris terror attack turned himself in, but authorities said there was no link.

A prosecutor in Belgium's Antwerp said: "That man came to police late yesterday after he saw himself appear on social media as terror suspect No. 1 relating to yesterday's facts."

The prosecutor, who declined to be identified because the investigation was ongoing, said the man had nothing to do with the attack. "He was not part of a terrorism investigation."

Belgian Justice Minister Koen Geens told VRT network early Friday that "at this moment we have no information about Belgian links."

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10:40 a.m.

The Paris prosecutors' office leading the investigation into the Champs-Elysees gun attack says police have detained for questioning three family members of the suspected gunman, who was shot and killed.

The prosecutors' office stressed Friday that questioning family members is routine in such cases, as investigators seek to determine whether the gunman was acting alone, where he got his weapons and other details.

The Islamic State group quickly claimed responsibility for the attack that killed one police officers and injured two others on the iconic Parisian boulevard Thursday night.

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10:25 a.m.

Far-right French populist leader Marine Le Pen is calling for "a clear head and a firm grip" in the wake of the Champs-Elysees gun attack that put the focus back on one of the main themes of her election campaign for the French presidency: France's fight against Islamic extremism.

Speaking Friday morning on RFI radio, Le Pen said: "It is time to stop being naive."

One of the key questions heading into Sunday's first-round vote is whether the attack Thursday night that killed a police officer and injured two others could bump up the vote for her program of stepped-up security and border controls, more resources for police and tougher treatment of radicals listed on the government's database of people regarded as potential threats to national security.

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10:05 a.m.

Parisian commuters and tourists are walking warily past police tape around the Champs-Elysees after an attack that some say may push voters to favor far-right presidential candidate Marine Le Pen.

Police and soldiers are stationed at multiple sites around the broad, cobblestoned avenue Friday morning.

Retiree Elena Worms, walking her dog near the Champs-Elysees, called the attack "destabilizing" and said she fears it will "push people to the extremes" in Sunday's presidential election.

However she said she will not change her vote — she plans to support conservative Francois Fillon, who takes a tough line on security and what he calls Islamic totalitarianism.

Marty Cisse, an office cleaner from Mauritania, worries that Le Pen's closed-borders platform would threaten immigrants like himself, but said "security is important" and said it should be the priority of the next president.

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9:55 a.m.

The Paris prosecutor's office leading the investigation of the Champs-Elysees gun attack says investigators found a pump-action shotgun and knives in the gunman's car.

Police quickly shot and killed the gunman after he opened fire on officers, killing one and injuring two others on Thursday night.

The Islamic State group claimed responsibility.

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9:50 a.m.

France's government has reviewed its already extensive election security measures and says it is "fully mobilized" in the wake of the Champs-Elysees gun attack on police officers.

Speaking after a meeting Friday morning of the government's security council, Prime Minister Bernard Cazeneuve said: "Barbarity and cowardice struck Paris last night, as they also recently struck elsewhere in Europe — in Berlin, Stockholm, in London."

He said "the whole of Europe is targeted because it represents the values and ideals of peace."

He said more than 50,000 police and gendarmes are mobilized to protect Sunday's first-round vote in the two-stage election, with an additional 7,000 soldiers also on patrol. He added that the intelligence services are working "in the shadows" and elite intervention police forces are also on alert.

He said "nothing must hamper this democratic moment, essential for our country."

The prime minister appealed for national unity and for people "not to succumb to fear."

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9:05 a.m.

Presidential candidate Emmanuel Macron is appealing to French voters to keep a cool head in the wake of the gun attack of the Champs-Elysees that killed a police officer.

Speaking Friday on RTL radio, Macron said: "What our attackers want is death, symbolism, to sow panic (and) to disturb a democratic process, which is the presidential election."

The centrist who has been a front-runner in polls with Marine Le Pen of the far-right National Front said he has canceled two planned campaign stops on Friday out of a sense to "decency" and to allow police to concentrate resources on the attack investigation.

Asked if the assault would impact voting on Sunday, Macron said: "No one knows."

He vowed that, if elected, he would within weeks of taking power create a task force to coordinate French intelligence efforts against the Islamic State group, which claimed responsibility for Thursday night's attack.

He tore into Le Pen, accusing her of lying with claims that previous attacks wouldn't have happened under her watch.

"She won't be able to protect our citizens," Macron said of Le Pen.

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8:55 a.m.

French officials say the two police officers injured on the Champs-Elysees by a gunman who killed one of their colleagues are both out of danger.

Interior Ministry spokesman Pierre-Henry Brandet said one of the injured officers was more gravely hurt than the other but both are doing better.

National police spokesman Jerome Bonet, also speaking on BFM television, said "there were thousands of people" on the iconic boulevard in Paris when the gunman opened fire and that the rapid response of officers who shot and killed him avoided a possible "carnage."

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8 a.m.

France began picking itself up Friday from another shooting claimed by the Islamic State group, with President Francois Hollande calling together the government's security council and his would-be successors in the presidential election campaign treading carefully before voting this weekend.

One of the key questions was if, and how, the attack that killed one police officer and wounded three other people might impact voting intentions. The risk for the main candidates was that misjudging the public mood, making an ill-perceived gesture or comment, could damage their chances. With polling just two days away, and campaigning banned from Friday at midnight, they would have no time to recover before polls open on Sunday. Candidates canceled or rescheduled final campaign events ahead of Sunday's first-round vote in the two-stage election.

2017-04-21 11:49:24 GMT

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