A French police officer was shot dead and two others were wounded on the Champs Elysees shopping boulevard in Paris on Thursday night. The gunman was immediately shot and killed by officers after the attack, the Interior Ministry and local police confirmed.
The Islamic State group identified the 39-year-old attacker as one of its "soldiers," naming him as Abu Yousif, The Telegraph reports. Yousif was dubbed "the Belgian" by the radical militant group. French officials, who have previously investigated the attacker for having shown an intention to kill police, have not yet confirmed his identity.
The attack, which is alleged to boost support for France's far-right National Front party, took place just days ahead of the country's presidential election on Sunday.
"I don't want to get used to Islamic terrorism," National Front presidential candidate Marine Le Pen said on Twitter Thursday. "Laxness and naivety are over."
The French prosecutors' office said the counter-terrorism office has opened an investigation. Interior Ministry spokesman Pierre-Henry Brandet said it was too early to say what the motive of the attack was, but that it was clear the police officers had been deliberately targeted.
"A little after 9pm a vehicle stopped alongside a police car which was parked. Immediately a man got out and fired on the police vehicle, mortally wounding a police officer," Brandet told BFM TV.
Officers at the scene said they were searching for a potential second assailant. A police source said an arrest warrant had been issued for a suspect in the shooting who had arrived in Paris from Belgium by train, BFM TV reports.
Officers also conducted a search at the home of the dead attacker in eastern Paris.
"I came out of the Sephora shop and I was walking along the pavement.... A man got out of a car and opened fire with a kalashnikov on a policeman," witness Chelloug, a kitchen assistant, told Reuters.
"The policeman fell down. I heard six shots, I was afraid. I have a two year-old girl and I thought I was going to die... He shot straight at the police officer."
Police authorities called on the public to avoid the area.
TV footage showed the Arc de Triomphe monument and top half of the Champs Elysees packed with police vans, lights flashing and heavily armed police shutting the area down after what was described by one journalist as a major exchange of fire near a Marks and Spencers store.
The incident came as French voters prepared to go to the polls on Sunday in the most tightly-contested presidential election in living memory.
Earlier this week, two men were arrested in Marseille where police said they were been planning an attack ahead of the election.
A machine gun, two hand guns and three kilos of TATP explosive were among the weapons found at a flat in the southern city along with jihadist propaganda materials according to the Paris prosecutor.