Paris shooting poses test for France's security on election eve

Source: Xinhua| 2017-04-21 22:52:45|Editor: Mu Xuequan
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PARIS, April 21 (Xinhua) -- As France prepares for the imminent presidential election, security measures are being put to the test after an armed man shot dead a police officer and seriously wounded two others on Thursday night in the Champs Elysees avenue, an iconic shopping street in the French capital.

The incident brought back to the fore the risk of terrorism and the government's security policy and raised questions over the efficiency of the ruling Socialists' package of security measures in the most visited country in the world.

French President Francois Hollande overnight pledged "absolutely vigilant" security measures for the upcoming presidential election on Sunday.

On Thursday, the Socialist leader said "all appropriate means must be mobilized to ensure a good course of voting," adding the government would "implement specific protection measures, including those in relation with cyber attacks, taken at all levels during the election period."

On Friday, French Prime Minister Bernard Cazeneuve stressed the government is "fully mobilized" to overcome any attacks.

"Nothing must hamper this democratic moment essential for our country," he said after a restricted defence council at the Elysee Palace held on Friday morning.

With this aim, the prime minister said more than 50,000 police and gendarmes will be deployed across the country to secure the smooth running of voting on April 23 and May 7.

In addition to that, elite intervention police forces are also on alert, he added.

However, Hollande and the government are under pressure to go further as despite anti-terror laws giving more power to security services, Thursday's attack was not prevented.

Authorities said police officers were "deliberately targeted" in Thursday evening's shooting, which has been claimed by the extremist group Islamic State (IS). The 39-year-old assailant was on the police radar for radicalisation before the attack.

In 2005, he was sentenced to 15 years in jail for attempted murders, with two against police officers, according to local media.

Far-right presidential front-runner Marine Le Pen lashed out at the "judicial laxity," and accused the "notoriously feeble government of inaction."

"We cannot afford to lose this war. But for the past ten years, left-wing and right-wing governments have done everything they can for us to lose it. We need a presidency which acts and protects us," Le Pen told reporters at her campaign headquarter on Friday.

She proposed to immediately restore internal borders and expel foreigners who are suspected of having links with terrorist cells.

Defending the government's record on security, Cazeneuve denounced Le Pen's "misunderstanding" on the fight against terrorism, noting that 117 individuals have been sent home on suspected links with terrorism since 2012 and that internal borders have been restored after the Paris attacks in November 2015.

France has imposed emergency security rules in the wake of the 2015 attacks which killed 130 people, but several other attacks have broken out since, with the bloodiest on Bastille Day last year in Nice where a man drove his truck into a crowd and killed 86 people.

French police on Tuesday arrested two men for plotting terror attacks during the election period, targeting specifically presidential candidates.

This added to a lengthy list of thwarted attacks in France since 2016.

"The terrorist risk is now higher than ever," said French Interior Minister Matthias Fekl.

KEY WORDS: Paris shooting