ISIS Thursday identified Abu Yousef Al Baljiki ("The Belgian"), French national, the “Islamic State fighter” responsible for Thursday’s terrorist attack on Champs-Élysées, Paris which left one police officer dead and wounded two others. Al Baljiki was killed by French security forces.
ISIS made the claim through its official Islamic State (ISIS) news agency, A’maq, and posted on the ISIS-affiliated Nasher Telegram channels.
So far, French security authorities have not confirmed the identity of the man, telling media he wouldn’t be identified until they’d confirmed he acted alone. Police have said they found identity documents in the car he was driving.
Paris prosecutor François Molins told reporters "the attacker’s identity is known and has been verified,” but that he “won’t reveal it, because investigations and raids are already under way, in particular to establish whether there is any evidence or not of complicity.”
The Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI), which monitors jihadi social media, said, “It is worth noting that unlike previous ISIS claims of responsibility for attacks in the West, this statement did not note that the attack was carried out in response to ISIS’s call to target coalition countries fighting against it, and referred to the attacker as one of the ‘fighters’ (muqatilii), rather than the ‘soldiers’ (jundii), of the Islamic State.”
According to Interior Ministry spokesman Pierre-Henry Brandet the gunman pulled alongside a police vehicle and that a man got out and opened fire on the vehicle with an automatic weapon, killing the one officer while shooting at other officers while attempting to flee the scene, two of whom he wounded.
Reports out of France since the attack allege that ISIS-identified Al Baljiki was known to the French domestic security service DGSI for his extremist Islamist activities, and reportedly was the subject of a DGSI "Fiche S" surveillance file, a designator used to flag an individual considered to be a serious threat to national security.
He reportedly shot two officers in 2001 after being stopped by police. Reports say he was taken into custody but during questioned managed to get ahold of officer’s gun and shot him three times. He was convicted and reportedly had a criminal record for violent robberies.
The Telegraph reported that, “The shooting … was carried out by a man who was under preliminary investigation for terrorism but “let go,’” and that, “The attack raised questions over how yet another Islamist extremist known to police was able to bring terror to the heart of the French capital.”
According to reports late Thursday night, French prosecutors had opened a counterterrorism investigation, while interior ministry spokesman Brandet said there may be more than one attacker and that the police were “deliberately targeted.”
Reuters reported an arrest warrant had been issued for a second suspect.
French President François Hollande said he believes the attack was "terrorist-related.”