Paris attack to have 'big effect' on presidential poll

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"Other policemen engaged and shot and killed the attacker", Brandet said. Authorities stated this shooting was possibly a terrorist attack.

France has lived under a state of emergency since 2015 and has suffered a spate of Islamist terror attacks that have killed more than 230 people in the past two years.

This situation is unfolding only a few blocks away from the Elysée Palace - the official residence of the French president.

Prosecutor Francois Molins said that investigators have verified the identity of the gunman in Thursday night's attack and are trying to determine whether he had accomplices. National police spokesman Jerome Bonet, also speaking on BFM television, said "there were thousands of people" on the iconic boulevard in Paris when the gunman opened fire and that the rapid response of officers who shot and killed him avoided a possible "carnage". The ministry said security forces gunned down the attacker as he tried to flee the scene on foot.

"I needed to get out, to come back here and see the sunshine and that everything was OK", said Lebanese tourist Zeina Bitar, 45, who was shopping on the boulevard with her children when the gunman struck.

An interior ministry spokesman said it was too early to say what the motive was for the attack.

There were other reports it may have been an armed robbery gone wrong, but police have launched a terrorism inquiry and all indications are that it is terror-related. "We don't know yet what his motivations were".

President Francois Hollande said he was convinced it was a terrorist attack. Again, it is happening, it seems. "I just saw it as I was walking in". And what can you say?

He calls the attack a "terrible thing" and says "it never ends". "And I've been saying it for a long time".

Bitar's friend Pascale Saad, 42, also from Lebanon, said she was anxious about the effects the attack would have on France's presidential election starting with its first round of voting on Sunday. Hollande scheduled an emergency meeting late Thursday to discuss the attack.

"The sense of duty of our policemen tonight averted a massacre ... they prevented a bloodbath on the Champs Elysees", Interior Minister Matthias Fekl told reporters.

A police arrest warrant issued earlier on Thursday, which was seen by Reuters after the attack, warned of a unsafe individual who had come into France by train from Belgium on Thursday. Islamic State claimed responsibility. He said officers were "deliberately" targeted.

"Another terrorist attack in Paris".

By far the most deadly strike came on November 13, 2015, when ISIS militants killed 130 people in France's worst atrocity since World War II.

A French television station hosting a televised event with the 11 candidates running for president briefly interrupted its broadcast to report the shootings.

The shooting comes two days after the arrest of two men in southern Marseille with weapons and explosives who were suspected of preparing an attack to disrupt the campaign which concludes on Sunday.

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