A police officer was shot dead and two others were seriously injured in a shooting on the Champs Elysees last night, just three days before the first round of the French election.
Officials are treating the attack as terror-related, and ISIS have claimed that the gunman was an “Islamic State fighter”.
The 11 candidates vying to become the next French president learned of the attack during a live TV special, and were split over whether to continue with appearances today – the last official day of the campaign.
Marine Le Pen said that she would cancel events today, and issued a rallying cry to voters.
”I don't want us to get used to Islamist terrorism,” she said. “We have to stop being naive. We can't leave our children a country that is not able to defend them. Enough of laxism, enough of naivety.”
Francois Fillon said that he would also cancel campaigning trips as a sign of solidarity with the police.
“In this current context, there are no grounds to continue campaigning,” he said, adding: “The fight against Islamist totalitarianism must be the absolute priority of the next French president.”
Jean-Luc Mélenchon, the far-left candidate who has surged in popularity in recent weeks, argued that the candidates should not cave in to the threat of violence.
“As we wait for more definite information, I think we need to attend to our duties as citizens: no panic, we shouldn't interrupt our democratic process," he said.
Shocking images from the Champs Elysees terror attack
Fri, April 21, 2017
One policeman has been killed and two officers seriously injured by an extremist in a shooting on the Champs Elysees in Paris
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A damaged window is pictured on the Champs Elysees Avenue the day after a policeman was killed and two others were wounded in a shooting incident in Paris
Emmanuel Macron, the current frontrunner, paid tribute to the slain officer and said that “the first duty of a president was to protect citizens”.
Sunday’s vote will go ahead, and French Prime Minister Bernard Cazeneuve has called on citizens not to “give in to extremism”.
“Police intervention units are on alert and fully mobilized,” he said. “Nothing should hinder this fundamental democratic moment for our country.”
The Champs-Elysees shooting, the latest in a long line of Islamist assaults on France, could swing what has so far been an unpredictable and closely-run race.
One officer was shot dead in what is being treated as a terror-related attack
In the latest French poll, just four points separate the top four candidates, and around a third of voters are thought to be undecided.
Ms Le Pen and Mr Fillon are both known for their hardline stance against Islamist terrorism, which could win them extra votes in light of recent events.
Mr Macron has called for stronger borders and more efforts by tech companies to tackle terror, but his approach is seen as lightweight compared to his right-wing opponents.
Mr Mélenchon is the MP for an area known for conservative Islam, that was described last year by a high-ranking policeman as “France’s answer to Molenbeek”.
French election 2017: Who are the candidates?
Fri, April 21, 2017
Eleven candidates have joined the race for the French presidency, and the campaign is now in its final days ahead of the election on 23 April
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Emmanuel Macron is leading the latest polls
He is often described by critics as an “Islamo-lefty”, a stance which could prove troublesome with anti-Muslim sentiment and Islamophobia on the rise in France.
Policing and anti-terrorism are two of the most important issues in this election.
In recent years Islamist jihadis have targeted France repeatedly and frequently.
The deadliest attacks were in November 2015, when 130 were killed in an attack on the Bataclan, and in July 2016, when 86 were killed when a truck drove into crowds on Bastille Day a year later.