The Champs-Elysees gunman who shot and killed a Paris police officer just days before France's presidential election had a note with him defending the Islamic State group, France's anti-terrorism prosecutor said today.
Police investigating yesterday's attack found a note praising IS that apparently fell from the pocket of French assailant Karim Cheurfi, Paris Prosecutor Francois Molins said. Cheurfi also had addresses of police stations written on bits of paper in his car, he said.
The extremist group claimed responsibility for the attack in an unusually quick statement. Cheurfi, 39, was shot and killed by officers at the scene.
Molins said Cheurfi had a criminal record that included threatening police and that he was arrested in February. But the prosecutor said there was "a lack of known elements of radicalization" in the suspect's past and he was released for lack of evidence of a threat.
Two officials told The Associated Press that Cheurfi was convicted in 2003 of attempted homicide in the shootings of two police officers.
The attack on the Champs-Elysees, a grand boulevard synonymous with French glamour that traverses shops and landmarks, came less than 72 hours before the polls open in the first round vote of the presidential election.
The French government pulled out all the stops to protect Sunday's vote as the attack deepened France's political divide.
"Nothing must hamper this democratic moment, essential for our country," Prime Minister Bernard Cazeneuve said after a high-level meeting Friday that reviewed the government's already heightened security plans for the two-round presidential vote that begins Sunday.
"Barbarity and cowardice struck Paris last night," the prime minister declared, appealing for national unity and for people "not to succumb to fear."
Investigators believe at this stage that the gunman was alone in killing the police officer and wounding two others and a female German tourist last night, a French official who discussed details of the investigation with the AP said on condition of anonymity.
The policeman killed yesterday was identified as Xavier Jugele by Flag!, a French association of LGBT police officers.