Paris terror attack halts presidential campaign, but looms large as vote nears
April 21, 2017
An apparent terror attack at one of Paris’ most storied landmarks has forced an early end to campaigning in Sunday’s presidential election, but the murder of a cop on the Champs-Elysees could have a huge effect on the race even as candidates are silenced.
The police officer was shot in the head Thursday by a reported Islamic radical known to authorities in what appears to be the latest terror attack in the City of Lights. With Sunday’s first-round voting pitting hard-liner Marine Le Pen against a crowded field of 11 that includes a Republican, a centrist and a socialist, the event is likely to bolster National Front nominee Le Pen, analysts have said.
“I think this election is sufficiently unstable that it could still move things,” Bruno Jeanbart, head of political studies at pollster OpinionWay, told Bloomberg News. “Marine Le Pen is notably one to watch.”
“Marine Le Pen is notably one to watch.”
– Bruno Jeanbart, OpinionWay
Le Pen, Republican Francois Fillon, centrist Emmanuel Macron and Socialist Benoit Hamon canceled Friday events and released statements vowing to get tough on terror. But Le Pen’s pledge could ring truer than most, as the 48-year-old attorney has made fighting Islamic radicalism one of the cornerstones of her campaign.
“Because our country is at war, the response must be global, total,” Le Pen said Friday in a statement in which she criticized sitting President Francois Hollande as “weak” and “inadequate” on terror.
Le Pen, already the front-runner in Round 1, is expected to make it to a May 7 runoff, in which she would likely face either Melenchon or Fillon.
Thursday’s attack unfolded as the candidates appeared on a television news program. Although campaigning was stopped due to the incident, their appearance offered a unique opportunity for voters to see their immediate reactions.
Le Pen repeated calls for a crackdown on radical Islam, which Macron pronounced “nonsense.” Fillon called for greater cooperation with Russia and Iran and Melenchon warned that France must not give in to violence.
Although the attack left only one police officer and the killer dead, terror has been on the minds of the French for years. A January 2015 attack on the offices of Charlie Hebdo, the satirical magazine targeted after mocking Islam, left a dozen dead. That was followed later in the year by coordinated attacks that killed 130 in Paris. Several other attacks have unfolded in France since then, including the shocking murder of a priest in his church in Normandy and a truck attack in Nice that killed 84.
“I was walking down the Champs-Élysées around 9 pm with my wife and three sons, and I stopped to buy a rose for my wife. We were 10 feet away from a person dressed in black garb when all of a sudden I heard a sudden burst of shots. It sounded like about eight bullets,” John Finney, an American from Paintsville, Kentucky, told Breitbart News in an exclusive phone interview.
“There were police in the street when the person started shooting,” Finney, 51, whom friends call “Jack” added, recalling the moments he and his family (pictured) witnessed a terrorist rampage on the streets of Paris.
“The shooter was very thin. He looked to be of Muslim or Islamic descent. His skin tone was darker, but it wasn’t black. He had facial hair, but it was light, it wasn’t a full beard,” Finney continued. “We saw one shooter, but we heard later there may have been two to four.”
“I looked him in the eye. My wife looked him in the eye. It was all very quick,” Finney said.
“He was spraying bullets, kind of in a half moon shape. My wife yells ‘run,’ and my boys start running, and I’m following them. I hear another burst of shots–about ten, and then another ten shots,” Finney says of the attack.
Finney added, “we did not see the hit, but we saw one of the policemen fall to the ground” when asked if he saw anyone hit by the bullets.
“It was all really quick. It was one of those things in slow motion. When it happens to you, it’s so quick, you just react,” Finney emphasized.
“I was very proud of how how my wife and three boys reacted. They were urgent, but not panicked. There are people panicking everywhere. One lady with a baby fell down, and my son helped her up. Then another lady fell down and hit her head, and I helped her up,” he notes.
Finney said the attack happened at 9:02 pm local time.
“My wife sent a text just as it happened. It was 9:02 pm local time. Right now it’s 12:43 am local time,” he said.
“We ran into the Swatch Watch shop, which was about 35 feet away from the shooter. The management there was fantastic. They pulled down the metal door,” he added.
“We were locked down there for about two hours. They had French Special Forces out in the street. There were all kinds of helicopters around. Then after about two hours, they evacuated us out of the Swatch Watch shop, and got us back to our hotel, where we are now,” Finney said.
“From what I saw, this was a pretty big event. At the time, we felt they were still searching for other terrorists. I can’t say enough great things about the French police. I can’t say enough great things about the French people.
“I was told there was an actual warning given to the military that an event like this might happen. I wish they had made us aware of that. There were thousands of people on the street at the time.”
Finney praised what he said was “the heroic behavior of the French Police.”
Finney and his wife, Dr. Angela Maggard, were in Paris with their three sons, one 16 and twins aged 14, to celebrate the couple’s 30th wedding anniversary.
Earlier in the day, Finney, his wife, and their three boys had visited the Phoenix Hotel then gone out to a restaurant for dinner.
“We wanted to show our boys where we stayed thirty years ago,” Finney said.
Finney wanted Breitbart News to know two key points about the attack.
“One, it was a terrorist attack,” he said.
“Two, it was placed around the election.”
Early Friday morning, The Standard reported Finney’s account of the terrorist attack he and his family witnessed:
A terrified family caught up in the attack have revealed today how they looked the gunman “in the eyes” before running for their lives as he opened fire on police.
John Finney, 51, shielded his wife and children as they fled the attacker.
The Finney family, tourists visiting Paris en route to London from their home in Kentucky. were walking down the famous boulevard when a series of blasts rang out.
Mr Finney told the Standard: “My wife and I looked him in the eye. It was like slow-motion. We are blessed to be alive.”
His 16-year-old son Jack said: “There was a single gunman in black clothes on the sidewalk in between a hotel and a police van. Three rounds of machine gun fire were shot off.
“He was about 20ft from us on the crowded street. It was a Kalashnikov, all black. It was very terrifying.
“Everyone started running including me. We saw a few people fall. My dad held his arms out and covered as much of us as he could as we ran away, not sure if we were going to be shot at.
“I knew more and more attacks have been happening here but I really didn’t expect one to happen as I walked down such a famous street.”
The family sought refuge in a nearby branch of Swatch along with other shocked witnesses before being given the all-clear by police more than two hours later.
Mr Finney said that French special forces and bomb squads were “sweeping every inch of the area involved” following the attack.
He said his family, who are scheduled to travel on to London on Sunday, would not be scared into returning home early.
He said: “We will not live in fear and we will not bow to the terrorists.”
“John Finney, an American tourist from Kentucky visiting Paris with his family told NBC News that he had been 10 feet away when the shooter opened fire,” NBC News reported:
“I stopped to buy my wife a rose and I think if I hadn’t done that I wouldn’t be here speaking to you right now,” Finney said. “We saw the shooter get out of the car, he had a gun. To me, it looked like an AR-15 [and] he started popping of rounds.”
Finney added: “It was chaos. People were spreading out, running all over the place, falling down, trampling each other. It was real panic.”
PARIS (AFP) – A known terror suspect shot dead a French policeman and wounded two others on Paris’s Champs Elysees in an attack claimed by the Islamic State group, days before a presidential election.
Observers had long feared bloodshed ahead of Sunday’s vote in France following a string of atrocities since 2015 and the violence is likely to thrust security to the front of voters’ minds.
Here is a recap of major assaults and foiled attempts since the Charlie Hebdo shootings in Paris in January 2015.
– 2015 –
– January 7-9: Two men armed with Kalashnikov rifles storm the Paris offices of satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo killing 12 people. A policewoman is killed just outside Paris the following day, while a gunman takes hostages at a Jewish supermarket, four of whom are killed. The attackers are killed in separate shootouts with police, but not before claiming allegiance to Al-Qaeda and the Islamic State (IS).
– February 3: A knife-wielding man attacks three soldiers guarding a Jewish community centre in Nice on the French Riviera. The 30-year-old assailant, Moussa Coulibaly, is arrested. In custody, he expresses his hatred for France, the police, the military and Jews.
– April 19: Sid Ahmed Ghlam, an Algerian IT student, is arrested on suspicion of killing a woman who was found shot dead in her car, and of planning an attack on a church in the Paris suburb of Villejuif. Prosecutors say they found documents about Al-Qaeda and IS at his home, and that he had been in touch with a suspected jihadist in Syria about an attack on a church.
– June 26: Frenchman Yassin Salhi, 35, kills and beheads his boss Herve Cornara and displays the severed head, surrounded by two Islamic flags, on the fence of a gas plant in Saint-Quentin-Fallavier in southeastern France. He tries to blow up the factory, but is arrested. He commits suicide in his jail cell in December.
– July 13: Four men aged 16 to 23, including a former soldier, are arrested on charges of planning an attack on a military camp to behead an officer in the name of jihad. They proclaim allegiance to IS.
– August 21: Passengers prevent a bloodbath on a high-speed Thalys train from Amsterdam to Paris, tackling a man who opened fire on travellers. He was armed with a Kalashnikov assault rifle, an automatic pistol and a box-cutter. The gunman is identified as 25-year-old Moroccan national Ayoub El Khazzani, known to intelligence services for links to radical Islam.
– November 13: IS jihadists armed with assault rifles and explosives strike outside a France-Germany football match at the national stadium, Paris cafes, and the Bataclan concert hall in a coordinated assault that leaves 130 people dead and more than 350 wounded, the deadliest attack of its kind in French history.
– 2016 –
– January 7: A man wielding a meat cleaver and carrying an IS emblem is shot dead as he tries to attack a police station in Paris. Convicted of theft in 2013, the man identified himself at the time as Moroccan- born Sallah Ali.
– June 13: Larossi Abballa, 25, kills police officer Jean-Baptiste Salvaing, 42, and his partner, Jessica Schneider, 36, at their home in Magnanville, west of Paris. Salvaing is stabbed to death, while Schneider’s throat is slit in front of their young son. Abballa is killed by a police SWAT team, but has already claimed the murders on social media in the name of the Islamic State group.
– July 14: A truck ploughs through a crowd on Nice’s Promenade des Anglais after a Bastille Day fireworks display, killing 84 people and injuring over 330. The driver, Mohamed Lahouaiej Bouhlel, 31, is shot dead by security forces. IS claims responsibility.
– July 26: Attackers slit the throat of a priest in a hostage-taking at his church in the Normandy town of Saint-Etienne-du-Rouvray.
– 2017 –
– February 3: A man armed with a machete in each hand attacks four soldiers on patrol at Paris’s Louvre Museum, shouting “Allah Akbar”. The attacker, a 29-year-old Egyptian, was seriously injured.
– March 18: A 39-year-old man is killed at Paris’s Orly airport after attacking a soldier. The attacker shouted: “I am ready to die for Allah,” according to the Paris prosecutor, Francois Molins.
– April 19: Police arrest two Frenchmen in their twenties in Marseille on suspicion of planning an attack, with bomb-making materials and guns found in searches.
– April 21: A known terror suspect shoots dead a French policeman and wounds two others on the Champs Elysees, before being killed in return fire, in an assault claimed by the Islamic State group.
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