France’s presidential candidates have expressed solidarity with police forces following the shooting of three officers in Paris, leaving one dead and two gravely wounded, as the Islamic State extremist group claimed responsibility for the deadly attack.
The 11 candidates were appearing on a television programme ahead of the first round of voting in the two-part election on Thursday night when the attack on the Champs Elysees boulevard that left one officer dead happened.
The attacker opened fire on a police van with an automatic weapon before being killed.
A prosecutor said his identity had been been verified and police said at least one location in the eastern Paris suburbs was being searched.
Two police sources said the gunman had been flagged as an extremist.
In a statement from its Amaq news agency, IS gave a pseudonym for the gunman, indicating he was Belgian.
The claim of responsibility came unusually swiftly for the group, which has been losing territory in Iraq and Syria.
And the pseudonym, Abu Yusuf al-Beljiki, indicated that the attacker already had ties of some sort to IS extremists.
Conservative presidential contender Francois Fillon said he was cancelling his planned campaign stops on Friday and far-right candidate Marine Le Pen took to Twitter to offer her sympathy for law enforcement officers “once again targeted”.
Centrist candidate Emmanuel Macron offered his thoughts to the family of the dead officer and Socialist Benoit Hamon tweeted his “full support” to police against terrorism.
The first round of the presidential race is will take place on on Sunday and the two top contenders will advance to a run-off on May 7.
France’s president Francois Hollande said he was convinced the circumstances surrounding the attack on the police officers pointed to a terrorist act and has convened a National Defence and Security Council to meet on Friday morning.
The council comprises top security, police and military figures and several members of the government.
A French government spokesman said the assailant had an automatic firearm akin to a “war weapon”.
Interior Ministry spokesman Pierre-Henry Brandet said no tourists or pedestrians were injured.
Police said the attacker was shot dead by an officer or officers.