A car loaded with gas canisters rammed into a police van on the Champs-Elysees avenue in Paris on Monday, leaving the driver dead in what the interior minister said was an “attempted attack”.
“Security forces have been targeted in France once again,” Interior Minister Gerard Collomb said, adding that the situation is now under control.
Explosives and weapons, including knives and a shotgun, were found in the white Renault Megane, which Collomb said could have potentially blown up the car.
Interior ministry spokesman Pierre-Henry Brandet said bomb disposal experts were on the scene to “ensure the vehicle poses no further danger.”
French officials said that the man was a 31-year-old who had been flagged for extremism. Karim Cheurfi was from the suburb of Argenteuil and had an “S” file, meaning that authorities had been aware of his potential links to extremism.
A note praising the Islamic State was found next to Cheurfi’s body.
Video showed orange smoke pouring from the car after the impact.
Paris police said neither gendarmes nor passersby were injured.
“People were running every which way,” said a 51-year-old bystander who gave his name only as Alexandre. “Some shouted at me to get away.”
Anti-terrorism prosecutors have opened an investigation.
Police have closed two of the Metro stations on the Champs-Elysees, a world-renowned avenue lined with shops and cinemas that is a major tourist draw in the French capital.
The incident came just two months after a policeman was shot and killed on the avenue, three days before the first round of France’s presidential election.
France has been consistently targeted by jihadists and remains under a state of emergency imposed after the November 2015 attacks in Paris, when Islamic State fighters killed 130 people in a night of carnage at venues across the city.
Collomb said he will present a bill on Wednesday at a Cabinet meeting to extend the state of emergency from July 15, its current expiration date, until November 1.
He says the current situation in France shows a new security law “is needed” and the measure would “maintain a high security level” beyond the end of the state of emergency.
Source: News agencies