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Karim Cheurfi (December 31st, 1977 - April 20th, 2017)[1] is a serial gunman who shot police officers in three separate attacks in France. Motivated by lifelong hatred of police and latterly by Islamic extremism, Cheurfi wounded four officers and killed one, as well as injuring two civilians. He was himself shot dead during his final attack, on April 20th, 2017.

2001 attacks

In 2001 Cheurfi crashed a stolen car, shooting and injuring a police officer and his brother who gave chase, severely injuring both.[2] Days later he grabbed a second officer's gun while he was in custody and shot and wounded that officer.[3] Following a 2003 trial, he was sentenced to 20 years,[3] reduced on appeal to 15 years, for the three attempted murders.[2] He received parole in 2013.[2]

These crimes were linked at the time to organized crime rather than terror.[4] Three months after release he committed an armed robbery, being captured after a car chase; in July 2014 he received a sentence of four years with two suspended [2]and was released in October 2015.[1]

Background

Cheurfi did not appear to become radicalized during his time in prison.[4] Lawyer Jean-Laurent Panier, who represented Cheurfi at a theft trial, said shortly after the 2017 attack that Cheurfi was "psychologically fragile" and a naive and unsuccessful criminal, adding "I never got a sense that this was someone who would be radicalized."[4]

Cheurfi lived an isolated existence with few or no friends [4]and stayed with his parents in Chelles, Paris.[3] Neighbors in the ethnically-diverse eastern suburb described him as a vulnerable but violent mentally ill man with a deep hatred of police and who never visited his local mosque.[2]

Cheurfi was a Parisian from birth, being raised in the northeastern Livry-Gargan suburb.[1]

Radicalisation

French authorities first received word of radical intent by the suspect in December 2016.[4] The tipoff suggested he was attempting to acquire weapons and contact Islamic State terrorists in Iraq and/or Syria with a view to murder French police officers.[4] Although not then added to France's "S List" of terror suspects, he was added to a radicalisation alert list the following month.[4] In January he was also questioned after buying two hunting knives, a Scream mask, and a GoPro camera.[3] He was released after claiming the knives were for fishing and the other items were for a festival.[3]

In February 2017 police interrogated him over alleged threats made via the encrypted app Telegram, but he was released owing to insufficient evidence.[4] The following month French intelligence began to look more closely at him owing to ongoing attempts to contact foreign terrorists, but while he was seen as dangerous he was not considered an immediate threat.[4]

2017 attack

At 20:47 pm[1] On April 20th, 2017, Cheurfi drove an Audi[1] car behind a marked police van which was parked outside a Marks & Spencers on the Champs-Elysees.[3] He opened fire with an AK-47,[3] shooting dead officer Xavier Jugelé, 37, through the van's driver's window.[1] He then attacked and injured two police officers stationed guarding a Turkish tourist office.[1] A German lady's foot was also injured.[3] Security forces subsequently shot and killed the 39-year-old attacker.[3][1]

Investigation

Police immediately sealed off Cheurfi's family home and detained three of his relatives for questioning, but pointed out this was standard procedure.[3] Islamic State claimed the attack, calling Cheurfi Abu Yousif al-Belgiki (The Belgian) despite Cheurfi being a French national.[4] Within days of the attack, a second suspect voluntarily attended a police station and was eliminated from the probe,[3] while police confirmed Cheurfi's motivation with the discovery of a handwritten pro-Islamic State note in his car.[4] Also in the car were knives and a pump-action shotgun[5]

References

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 1.6 1.7 Paris Champs Elysees attack gunman named as Karim Cheurfi, BBC News, April 2017
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 Champs-Elysées gunman: An unstable criminal who 'hated French police', The Local, April 2017
  3. 3.00 3.01 3.02 3.03 3.04 3.05 3.06 3.07 3.08 3.09 3.10 Paris attack: Champs-Elysees suspect was jailed for shooting police and subject of terror investigation The Independent, April 2017
  4. 4.00 4.01 4.02 4.03 4.04 4.05 4.06 4.07 4.08 4.09 4.10 Paris attack: who is Karim Cheurfi, the gunman who lived with his mother and was 'let go' by French authorities in February?, The Telegraph, April 2017
  5. Paris gunman served more than 12 years in jail for shooting at police, The Guardian, April 2017

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