France’s interior minister: Car explodes after hitting patrol vehicle; driver dead

By Associated Press,
Last Updated: Monday, June 19, 2017, 11:42 AM EDT

France’s interior minister says that a driver who rammed a car carrying explosives into a police convoy on the Champs-Elysees avenue has died after the “attempted attack” on security forces.

  • The driver's car 'exploded'
  • Official says drive has died
  • While attack appeared deliberate, motives are unknown

Gerard Collomb told reporters near the scene Monday that the man’s motives were not immediately clear.

France’s anti-terrorism prosecutor opened an investigation. No police officers or passers-by were hurt, the Paris police department said. It is unclear why the attacker drove into police, though the Interior Ministry spokesman said the incident was apparently deliberate.

Two police officials told The Associated Press that a handgun was found on the driver, who they said was badly burned after the vehicle exploded. They spoke on condition of anonymity to reveal details of the incident, the second this year on the city’s most famous avenue, which is popular with tourists.

An attacker defending the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria terror group shot and killed a police officer on the Champs-Elysees in April, days before a presidential election, prompting an extensive security operation. France is under a state of emergency after a string of deadly Islamic extremist attacks.

On Monday, police cordoned off a broad swath of the Champs-Elysees avenue that cuts through central Paris, warning people to avoid the area. Bomb squads are combing the area and the nearest subway station is closed to the public.

However, the police department issued another tweet, stating that the situation was under control and no injuries were reported.

Eric Favereau, a journalist for Liberation newspaper who was driving a scooter behind the gendarmes, said he saw a car blocking the convoy’s path, then an implosion in the vehicle. Favereau wrote that the gendarmes smashed open the windows of the car while it was in flames and dragged out its occupant.

Other gendarmes used fire extinguishers to put out the flames. The account didn’t say what happened to the occupant of the car afterward.

A man could be seen lying on his stomach on the ground immediately after the incident, wearing a white shirt and dark shorts.