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France opens counter-terror probe into Reunion island police shooting

© Richard Bouhet, AFP | French security officers escort a person (C, hidden face) on April 27, 2017 in Saint-Denis-de-la-Reunion.

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2017-04-27

A man suspected of being a radicalised Islamist shot and wounded two policemen on the French Indian Ocean island of Reunion as they tried to arrest him on Thursday, according to officials.

"The man refused to be arrested and fired a rifle at police," a local government official on the island said, adding that the suspect -- a man in his 20s believed to be a recent convert to Islam -- was now in custody.

The lives of the two police officers are not in danger.

The Paris prosecutor's counter-terrorism section has opened an investigation into the attack, since the assailant is suspected of links to radical Islam.

Hours after the probe was launched, French security officials found a number of weapons and ingredients used to make Molotov cocktails at the attacker’s apartment.

The suspect's mother had also been arrested as part of the investigation, along with her son, said a statement released by French Interior Minister Matthias Fekl.

Reunion jihadist network busted

The attack on Reunion comes a week after a French policeman was shot and killed and two others wounded on Paris's Champs-Élysées avenue. That attack was claimed by the Islamic State group.

More than 230 people have been killed in a string of jihadist attacks on the French mainland since January 2015.

A jihadist network, the first in a French overseas territory, was smashed in Reunion in June 2015. Its leader, a 21-year-old known as "The Egyptian", was arrested and transferred to Paris.

Authorities in Reunion estimate there are around 100 radicalised Islamists on the island.

The local government official said Thursday's assailant was also "suspected of being radicalised".

France's police union Unite SGP POLICE-FO said it was "deeply shocked and angry after this new attack".

It "shows that policemen are in danger throughout the national territory and not only in certain areas as judges would have us believe", it added.

France is under a state of emergency after multiple Islamic extremist attacks. Extremists have notably targeted French security forces, seen as representing the reviled state.

One of France's biggest overseas territories and located east of Madagascar, Reunion island is an ethnically diverse island with a mix of religions at the crossroads of historic sea trading routes between Africa, Asia and the Arab world.

French presidential candidates Emmanuel Macron, an independent centrist, and far-right leader Marine Le Pen have both visited the island during the campaign. They meet in a tense runoff election May 7.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP, AP and REUTERS)

Date created : 2017-04-27


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