Car explodes after hitting police van in attack on Paris’s Champs-Elysees

PUBLISHED : Monday, 19 June, 2017, 10:36pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 20 June, 2017, 12:24am

A car loaded with gas canisters rammed into a police van on the Champs-Elysees avenue in Paris on Monday, leaving the driver dead in what the interior minister said was an “attempted attack”.

Police sources said a Kalashnikov rifle, handguns and gas bottles were found in the white Renault Megane.

“Security forces have been targeted in France once again,” Interior Minister Gerard Collomb said, calling the incident an “attempted attack”.

The weapons and explosives found in the vehicle “could potentially blow this car up,” he added.

Interior ministry spokesman Pierre-Henry Brandet said bomb disposal experts were on the scene to “ensure the vehicle poses no further danger.”

Video showed orange smoke pouring from the car after the impact.

No police or bystanders were injured in the incident near the Grand Palais exhibition hall.

“People were running every which way,” said a 51-year-old bystander who gave his name only as Alexandre. “Some shouted at me to get away.”

Anti-terrorism prosecutors have opened an investigation.

Police have closed two of the Metro stations on the Champs-Elysees, a world-renowned avenue lined with shops and cinemas that is a major tourist draw in the French capital.

The incident came just two months after a policeman was shot and killed on the avenue, three days before the first round of France’s presidential election.

A note praising Islamic State was found next to the body of the gunman, Karim Cheurfi, in that incident. Police later found other weapons in Cheurfi’s car including a shotgun and knives.

The incident on Monday was the latest in a string of attacks in London and Paris.

Two weeks ago jihadists used a van and knives to crush and kill eight people enjoying a night out in the British capital. Three of the victims were French.

Four days later, a hammer-wielding Algerian man was shot and wounded by police after he struck an officer on the head in front of Notre Dame cathedral in Paris.

In a video found at his home, he had pledged allegiance to Islamic State.

In London on Monday, a van ploughed into a crowd of Muslims near a London mosque early on Monday, leaving one person dead and injuring 10 others in the second terror attack this month in the British capital.

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France is still under a state of emergency imposed after the November 2015 attacks in Paris, when Islamic State jihadists killed 130 people in a night of carnage at venues across the city.

Previous major attacks targeted the Charlie Hebdo satirical magazine in January 2015 and in November that year, gunmen and suicide bombers attacked venues around Paris including the Bataclan concert hall, killing 130 people in all.