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Attack on the Champs Elysées. Be careful not to give in to one-upmanship

(B2) A police officer was killed, another was seriously injured, and a third more lightly, on the “most beautiful avenue in the world”, the Champs Élysées, Thursday evening (February 20), just before 21 p.m. Three days before the first round of the presidential elections. the event is not trivial. In the exchange of fire, a passerby was injured.

A fighter from Belgium

The police seemed to be deliberately targeted by the attacker who stopped his vehicle near the police, got out of his vehicle, and fired at them with a semi-automatic weapon, according to initial information – “ an assault rifle according to prosecutor François Molins – (1). The attacker was shot dead (2). The attack was quickly claimed by the Islamic State organization (Daesh), citing Abu Youssef al belgiki according to Wassim Nasr. That is to say a fighter coming from Belgium (3).

A fairly classic terrorism

Beyond the initial emotion, we can note that this act - like that committed at Orly against soldiers from the Sentinel system on Saturday March 18, 2017 - is comparable to classic terrorism attacking representatives of the State (4 ). From a technical point of view, it was entirely possible for the attacker to attack the crowd present on the Champs Élysées. Which would have had a much more negative effect in terms of the number of victims and the impact on the population. He chose to specifically attack uniforms but in selected, highly symbolic places frequented by tourists. The objective sought here is a double trigger: firstly, to mark the possibility of striking at any time against the police, secondly, to indicate to tourists that Paris is not a city safe.

European solidarity

The European commissioner in charge of terrorism, the British Julian King, was one of the first to react, saying to himself " shocked " by " the murder of a police officer in Paris and 2 injured victims of a terrorist attack ". " My thoughts [go] to the families and [I express my] solidarity with them “he said on his account Twitter.


Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel condemned this "cowardly and despicable aggression".

The former high representative of the Union, the Spaniard Javier Solana, also wanted to express “ all its solidarity with the French ».

German Chancellor Angela Merkel reacted through her spokesperson: addressing “ his condolences" to President François Hollande. "My sympathy goes out to the victims and their families. She added.


The German Foreign Minister reacted on twitter to this “shocking news from Paris. We mourn the victims and are firmly and resolutely on the side of France,” explained Sigmar Gabriel.


British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson also expressed his condolences.


The necessary resilience

The various political leaders, and presidential candidates, will now have to demonstrate maximum resilience. That is to say, to resist the temptation to overexploit this event, to add to it in dramatization and in proposals made on the spur of emotion. That would be the worst of all. This would in fact give a bonus to the perpetrators of the attack. What terrorists are looking for is not the destructive act of lives in itself but the additional media and political influence that follows, which has an all the more significant effect as the act committed has important symbolism. From this point of view, the cancellation of electoral campaign trips is not automatically a good thing. If it allows us to avoid statements made under the influence of emotion, which are more harmful than useful, it also contributes to the dramatization of the act.

(Nicolas Gros-Verheyde)

(1) The question of the origin of the weapon will have to be analyzed closely, particularly in the context of the new European legislation on the control of automatic or semi-automatic weapons. Read : Strengthening firearms control inside the EU (factsheet)

(2) An individual (Karim Cherfi) of French nationality, residing in Chelles is already known for a similar background. He was sentenced in 2003 to 20 years in prison for an attack on police officers, as recalled Le Parisien.

(3) Which does not fit with the known profile of the individual shot dead by the police, cf. above.

(4) Unlike the attacks at the Bataclan or on the terraces which were an act of 'pure' terrorism, deliberately targeting not the police but the ordinary population.

Nicolas Gros Verheyde

Chief editor of the B2 site. Graduated in European law from the University of Paris I Pantheon Sorbonne and listener to the 65th session of the IHEDN (Institut des Hautes Etudes de la Défense Nationale. Journalist since 1989, founded B2 - Bruxelles2 in 2008. EU/NATO correspondent in Brussels for Sud-Ouest (previously West-France and France-Soir).

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