Trump Says Paris Attack Will Shake French Election

Armed French police patrol the Champs Elysees Avenue the day after a policeman was killed and two others were wounded in a shooting incident in Paris

US President Donald Trump waded into France’s presidential election on Friday, saying that he expected the deadly attack in Paris would have an impact on France’s upcoming presidential vote.

“Another terrorist attack in Paris. The people of France will not take much more of this. Will have a big effect on presidential election!” he said, breaking a silence over Sunday’s vote in a tweet.

Trump tweeted hours after a gunman shot dead a French policeman and wounded two others on the world-famous Champs Elysees Boulevard. ISIS claimed responsibility for the fatal shooting.

The attack rocked France’s presidential race Friday with just days to go before one of the closest races in recent memory.

Bloodshed had long been feared ahead of Sunday’s first round of voting after a string of jihadist atrocities targeting the county. France is in a state of emergency and at its highest possible level of alert since a string of terror attacks that began in 2015, which have killed more than 230 people.

Three of the four presidential frontrunners — far-right leader Marine Le Pen, centrist Emmanuel Macron and conservative Francois Fillon — called off campaign events planned for Friday in the wake of the attack.

The attack prompted Marine Le Pen to say on Friday that France should reinstate border checks and expel foreigners who are on the watch lists of intelligence services.

Le Pen, who has campaigned on an anti-European Union, anti-immigration platform, was the only major French candidate who backed Republican Trump in the Nov. 8 US presidential election.

Trump ran for the White House on a pledge to get tough on immigration and his administration has imposed restrictions including a controversial ban, stalled in US courts, on travelers from Muslim majority nations.

On Thursday, former US President Barack Obama spoke with a different French candidate, Macron, a pro-EU centrist.

Macron is leading most opinion polls for the election’s first round on Sunday and is expected to contest a second-round run-off with Le Pen. Obama’s spokesman said the former US president, who is popular in France, was not making a formal endorsement.

Meanwhile, Macron has called on the French people not to succumb to fear, division and intimidation.

One day after the shootings of police officers in Paris and just two days before the first round of the presidential election, Macron said in a video posted online: “the terrorist’s will is to destabilize the country”.

“In such circumstances, the role of the president of the Republic as the army chief and guardian of our institutions is to protect the French. I am ready,” he said.

Macron recalled a series of security measures listed in his campaign platform: boost police and military forces and intelligence services and pursue France’s military operations against the ISIS group in Iraq and Syria.

Also, 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 extremists that would include all major actors, including the United States, the European Union, Russia, Iran, Turkey and the Gulf countries.

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.

Brussels Bombers Had Planned to Attack France Again

Belgian troops and police control a road leading to Zaventem airport following Tuesday's airport bombings in Brussels

The militant cell behind bombings in Brussels had intended to launch a fresh strike in France again after carrying out the Paris attacks in November, but was forced to attack in the Belgian capital instead after being “surprised” by a quick-moving investigation, Belgian prosecutors said on Sunday.

“Numerous elements in the investigation have shown that the terrorist group initially had the intention to strike in France again,” Belgium’s federal prosecutor said in a statement.

“Surprised by the speed of the progress in the ongoing investigation, they urgently took the decision to strike in Brussels.”

Investigations into the cell, which was directly involved in the November Paris attacks that left 130 people dead, showed that they had initially planned to stage a second deadly strike in France. It also showed that many of the perpetrators lived in Belgium, including surviving suspects who managed to evade police for more than four months.

Prime suspect Salah Abdeslam was arrested on March 18 in the Belgian capital. Four days later, suicide bombers killed 32 people in Brussels airport and a rush-hour metro train.

Belgian intelligence and security forces had been criticized abroad for not doing more to dismantle the militant cell, because of its links to the Paris attacks.

As of Friday, all publicly identified suspects were either in detention or dead, but Belgium remains on its second highest threat level, and Prime Minister Charles Michel said his government would remain alert.

His comments were echoed by French Prime Minister Manuel Valls, who said France would not be lowering its guard.
Valls said the information that another attack against France was in the works was evidence of the elevated threat to the country.

“It’s extra proof of the very high threats to the whole of Europe and to France in particular,” he said during a press conference in the Algerian capital.
“We will not let our guard down.”

Abdeslam, born and raised in Belgium to Moroccan-born parents, told a magistrate he had planned to blow himself up at a sports stadium in Paris in November, but backed out at the last minute. His brother Brahim blew himself up at a Paris cafe.

Another man linked to the Paris attacks, Mohamed Abrini, was arrested in Brussels on Friday and admitted to being the “man in the hat” captured on video walking into Brussels airport alongside two suicide bombers.

Prosecutors said Abrini , 31, had been charged with “terrorist murders” over the Belgian bloodshed.

“He is charged with participation in the activities of a terrorist group, terrorist murders and attempts to commit terrorist murders.”

“The investigating judge specialized in terrorism cases has put Abrini in detention in connection with the investigation into the Brussels and Zaventem [airport] attacks,” a statement said.

Another main suspect who was seen alongside the suicide bomber in the Brussels metro, identified by prosecutors as Osama K, was also arrested on Friday in the Belgian capital.

Osama K, 28, widely named by media as Swedish national Osama Krayem, was filmed buying the bags used to carry the Brussels bombs.