Paris attack: Gunman was known for radical Islamist activities

France presidential elections

France presidential elections

The incident follows two recent attacks on soldiers providing security at prominent locations around Paris - one at the Louvre museum in February and one at Orly airport in March.

The attack happened when a auto pulled up next to a police van, with a gunman getting out and immediately shooting at officers who were guarding an area near the Franklin Roosevelt metro station.

French anti-terror prosecutors and the National Intelligence Service are now opening an investigation to determine the nature of the incident on the Champs Elysees, according to the Paris Prosecutor's Office in a text to CNN, looking at terror as a possible motive in this attack.

The Islamic State identified the attacker as Abu Yusuf al-Beljiki through its Amaq news agency, according to SITE Intel Group, a US -based organization that monitors terrorists' activity online. In July, an attacker in Nice drove a truck into a crowd celebrating Bastille Day, killing more than 80 people and injuring hundreds before he was fatally shot by police.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau posted a message on Twitter late Thursday saying "Canada stands with France, as we always will, against terror".

The center of Paris appeared a war zone with special security forces pushing people away from several areas, and rushing to the streets to step up a security.

Early on Friday, investigators searched a home in an eastern suburb of Paris as they suspect that it is linked to the attack.

French President Francois Hollande said he is convinced the circumstances of the Paris shooting points to terrorist act, the Associated Press reported.

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A counter-terrorism investigation has been opened and police officials said the suspect, who was killed by officers, had previously been flagged as an extremist.

"The man in the wanted notice issued by Belgian authorities presented himself to a police station in Antwerp", ministry spokesman Pierre-Henry Brandet told AFP. Officers shot and killed the assailant.

"Over the next few days more than 50,000 police officers and gendarmes will be mobilised to ensure a calm and peaceful election".

France is still under a state of emergency, following the Paris attacks in 2015 that left 130 dead.

French President Francois Hollande, again forced to address the nation after an attack, promised "absolute vigilance, particularly with regard to the electoral process" and paid tribute to the police.

Eyewitness Badi Ftaiti said: "They were running, running". Police tape surrounded the quiet, middle-class neighborhood in Chelles early Friday, and anxious neighbors expressed surprise at the searches.

Two Presidential hopefuls cancelled rallies scheduled for Friday.

The vote is being closely watched as a pivotal event amid a global swing to the right, including Trump's election in November and Britain's decision to exit the European Union last summer, a move the United States president has applauded.

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