Two French officials say the gunman who shot and killed a police officer on the Champs-Elysees was detained in February for threatening police then freed.
The officials spoke Friday to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because they weren’t authorized to publicly discuss details of the probe into Thursday night’s attack.
The officials said the gunman was detained toward the end of February after speaking threateningly about the police but then released for lack of evidence.
He was convicted in 2003 of attempted homicide in shootings on two police officers.
Police shot and killed the gunman after he opened fire on a police van on Paris’ most famous boulevard. The Islamic State group quickly claimed responsibility for the attack.
No link to Belgian person of interest
The Belgian man who had been linked by some as an accomplice to the Paris terror attack turned himself in, but authorities said there was no link.
A prosecutor in Belgium’s Antwerp said: “That man came to police late yesterday after he saw himself appear on social media as terror suspect No. 1 relating to yesterday’s facts.”
The prosecutor, who declined to be identified because the investigation was ongoing, said the man had nothing to do with the attack. “He was not part of a terrorism investigation.”
Belgian Justice Minister Koen Geens told VRT network early Friday that “at this moment we have no information about Belgian links.”
Candidates stake out their positions
French conservative candidate Francois Fillon has pledged to keep the country under a state of emergency following the shooting of police officers Thursday in Paris.
In a statement at his campaign headquarters, Fillon said “the fight for the French people’s freedom and security will be mine. This must be the priority” of the next president.
Fillon promised to boost police and military forces.
He also said that, if elected, he would launch a “diplomatic initiative” aiming to create an international collaboration against Islamic extremists that would include all major actors, including the United States, the European Union, Russia, Iran, Turkey and the Gulf countries.
France has been under a state of emergency since the 2015 attacks by Islamic extremists in Paris.
Fillon hopes his experience as prime minister from 2007 to 2012 and hardline views on security issues will give his campaign a boost, just two days before the first round of the vote.
The two top contenders Sunday will advance to the runoff on May 7.
Far-left presidential candidate Philippe Poutou is blaming French politics for the deadly attack on Paris’ Champs-Elysees, in which a police officer and the attacker were killed.
Poutou, a car-factory worker backed by anti-capitalist party NPA, says the roots of extremist attacks are neither in mosques nor migrant camps. He said: “They are in the situation of external and internal war maintained by the state, and in the injustice and discriminations maintained in the suburbs.”
Poutou says the French state has to share the blame for attacks because it discriminates against people living in impoverished suburbs because of “their skin color or origins,” takes military action in Africa and the Middle East and sells arms to dictatorships.
Far-right presidential candidate Marine Le Pen called on the government to restore France’s borders immediately following the shooting of Paris officers in Paris.
The leader of the National Front wants France to exit the European passport-free Schengen area.
In a statement from her campaign headquarter in Paris, she asked the government and judicial authorities to handle the case of all individuals on the French territory known for “their adhesion to the enemy’s ideology”.
She wants foreigners signaled as Islamic radicals to be expelled from the country and French nationals identified for the same reason to face trial.
Le Pen, who has campaigned on anti-immigration views and a strong security stance, is seeking to give her campaign a last boost ahead of Sunday’s vote for the first round of the presidential election. Latest polls suggest she is in a position to be among the two top contenders and advance to the May 7 runoff.