The man who shot dead a French policeman in an Islamist militant attack had served time for armed assaults on law enforcement officers, police sources said on Friday, as authorities sought a second suspect flagged by Belgian security services. The assailant, who fired at officers with a machine gun, was shot dead by police while trying to flee.
The shooting on the final day of the presidential campaigning in France's pivotal presidential election caused the candidates to suspend last-minute pitches before the Sunday vote.
His two colleagues and the German tourist are said to be out of danger and police have been praised for helping to stop Cheurfi before he could hurt anyone else. The so-called Islamic State has claimed responsibility for the attack, though no proof of this has yet been found. The people of France will not take much more of this.
"Barbarity and cowardice struck Paris last night", the prime minister said, appealing for national unity and for people "not to succumb to fear".
Two officials said Cheurfi was convicted in 2003 of attempted homicide in the shootings of two police officers.
"An automatic weapon was used against police, a weapon of war", Brandet told reporters, adding that the "terrorist threat" in the country remained high.
A deadly shooting occurred at Paris' iconic boulevard, Champs-Élysées, late on Thursday leaving a policeman dead, and three others injured.
Meanwhile, two French officials told The Associated Press the suspect was detained in February for threatening police, but was then freed due to a lack of evidence. Investigators found a pump-action shotgun and knives in his vehicle. Several hours following the attack, ISIS claimed responsibility and identified the shooter as an ISIS soldier by the name of Abu Yusuf al-Baljiki.
France has fully mobilised its security forces, including elite units, to ensure citizens' protection during this weekend's presidential election, following the fatal shooting of a police officer in central Paris.
Earlier this week, in a separate incident, French authorities arrested two men in Marseille, saying they were suspected of planning an "imminent" attack ahead of the election and were found in possession of an arsenal of weapons.
The murdered police officer has been named as Xavier Jugelé and was said to be just days from celebrating his 38th birthday.
"They were running, running", said 55-year-old Badi Ftaoti, who lives in the area.
Mr Hollande held an emergency meeting with the prime minister on Thursday night and will convene a meeting of the defence council on Friday morning.
In response to the attack, the three leading candidates in France's presidential race announced the suspension of their scheduled campaign events on Friday.