The gunman who shot and killed a police officer just days before France’s presidential election was detained in February for threatening police but later freed.
It has emerged that at the time there was not enough evidence to prove that 39-year-old Frenchman Karim Cheurfi was a threat, according to Anti-terrorism prosecutor Francois Molins.
However, Mr Molins said that he did have a long police record – notably for trying to attack police
Investigators believe at this stage that Cheurfi was alone in killing the police officer, named as Xavier Jugele, and injuring two others and a German tourist on the Champs-Elysees on Thursday night, less than 72 hours before the polls open.
Mr Molins said the attacker had a note defending the Islamic State group with him when he opened fire. It apparently fell from his pocket and praised IS as well as listing addresses of security sites. Police shot and killed Cheurfi – identified from his fingerprints – during the incident, and later found a pump-action shotgun and knives in his car.
IS has said it was behind the attack and in a statement from its Amaq news agency, IS gave a pseudonym for the shooter, Abu Yusuf al-Beljiki, indicating he was Belgian or had lived in Belgium. But Belgium’s interior minister said the pseudonym did not belong to the attacker.
Investigators searched a home early yesterday in an eastern suburb of Paris believed to be linked to the attack and police detained for questioning three of the gunman’s family members. Meanwhile, the French government has pulled out all the stops to protect Sunday’s vote as the attack deepened France’s political divide.
Following a meeting yesterday that reviewed security plans for the two-round vote that begins tomorrow, Prime Minister Bernard Cazeneuve said: “Nothing must hamper this democratic moment, essential for our country.”
Police officer named: Page 7.