By James McAuley,
PARIS — A car exploded as it crashed into a police vehicle on Paris’s famed Champs Élysées on Monday, fatally wounding its driver, in what authorities called a probably terrorist attack.
Police were treating the incident as a deliberate attack, and the Paris prosecutor had opened an anti-terror investigation as of late Monday afternoon.
The car’s driver, whose identity was not released, was killed in the incident, said Gerard Collomb, France’s interior minister, speaking to reporters at the scene. No one else was injured, Paris police sources said.
Police said that the attacker — 31 and from the northwestern Paris suburb of Argenteuil — was previously known to French authorities, the Associated Press reported. He was reportedly listed on the government’s so-called “Fiche S,” a dossier of individuals suspected of posing a threat to national security.
“Once again, French security forces were targeted with this attempted attack on the Champs-Elysees,” Collomb said, adding that “a number of weapons, explosives to blow up this car” were discovered at the scene.
In late April, before the first round of voting in France’s presidential elections, there was a similar incident on the Champs Elysées, when a gunman opened fire on French police parked on the street, killing one and wounding two.
The Islamic State, through its affiliated Amaq News Agency, claimed responsibility for that attack.
Monday’s incident came less than a day after a vehicle attack on Muslim worshipers outside a mosque in north London. Since March, the British capital has suffered two other terrorist attacks, one of which involved a vehicle attack on Westminster Bridge outside the Houses of Parliament.
France also has a history of deadly vehicle attacks: In July 2016, an Islamic State-inspired assailant plowed through crowds gathered to celebrate Bastille Day, the national holiday, on a seaside promenade in Nice, killing 86.
Security analysts say vehicle attacks often represent last-ditch attempts at violence that are difficult to prevent.
The information that has emerged so far in this latest incident could fit a recent pattern, said Jean-Charles Brisard, a French intelligence expert and director of the Paris-based Center for the Analysis of Terrorism.
“We have a situation where a lot of individuals are radicalized in France, and it’s very difficult to prevent them. The intelligence services are doing a lot, but they cannot stop everyone.”
Collomb said that Monday’s incident justified further extension of France’s so-called “state of emergency,” a heightened security and surveillance regimen that has been in place since November 2015, when Islamic State militants carried out a series of coordinated attacks on a concert hall and cafes across Paris, killing 130.
Critics have said that the security regimen has failed to prevent attacks and has resulted in warrantless, extrajudicial searches and house arrests. Muslim advocacy organizations have said that French Muslims have been targeted disproportionately, often without probable cause.
In one of the most controversial moves of his young presidency, Emmanuel Macron has advocated enshrining certain of the state emergency’s special police powers into French law.