A gunman has killed a police officer and seriously wounded two others before being shot dead in an incident on the Champs Elysees shopping district in the French capital, according to Paris police and the interior ministry.
Gunman targeted police guarding the area near the Franklin Roosevelt subway station on Thursday night at the centre of the avenue popular with tourists.
Ministry spokesman Pierre-Henry Brandet said a man came out of a car and opened fire on a police vehicle.
“An automatic weapon was used against police, a weapon of war,” the Brandet told reporters, adding that the “terrorist threat” in the country remained high.
“A man got out and opened fire at the police car, fatally wounding a police officer. He also wounded a second one, it would seem very seriously.”
The identity of the attacker, who was killed, had not yet been definitely established, he said.
A French interior ministry spokesman said it was too early to say what the motive of the gunman was, but that it was clear the police officers had been deliberately targeted.
The French prosecutors’ office said the counter-terrorism office had opened an inquiry.
Three police sources, however, told the Reuters news agency that the shooting could have been an attempt at an armed robbery.
“Police operation taking place in the Champs Elysee area,” Paris police said in a post on Twitter. “Avoid the area and comply with police instructions.”
The French Interior Ministry confirmed on Twitter police was searching the vehicle used by the gunman and also carrying out search for explosives in the area.
Soldiers patrolling area
Al Jazeera’s Shafik Mandhai, reporting from Champs Elysees, said dozens of police vehicles and at least one ambulance were seen in the area.
“The incident took place between Franklin Roosevelt metro station and the Arc de Triumph,” he said. “Police formed a cordon and began moving people away.”
Soldiers were patrolling the area and the cordon was extended to the streets surrounding Champs Elysees.
Police secure the Champs Elysees Avenue after the shooting incident [Christian Hartmann/Reuters]
Massimo Cavazzini was walking along Champs Elysees when police arrived.
“We saw many cars converging to the middle of the road,” he told Al Jazeera.
“We immediately realised something was happening. Then two helicopters and around 50-60 cars going there so we moved away to a safer place.”
France President Francois Hollande has scheduled an emergency meeting following the shooting.
The incident comes three days before voters in France cast ballots in the first round of the presidential election.
On Tuesday, two men, suspected of preparing an attack to disrupt the first-round of the election, were arrested in southern Marseille with weapons and explosives.
Police secure the Champs Elysees Avenue following the incident in the French capital [Christian Hartmann/Reuters]
Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies