Car ploughs into police van in Paris Champs-Elysees ‘attack’

The assailant died in the incident, although investigators offered no immediate details about the cause.

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There has been no claim of responsibility for the assault.

The attack — which occurred just a short distance from where a jihadist shot dead a police officer two months earlier — was carried out by a man who had been on France’s security watchlist since 2015 over ties to “the radical Islamist movement”, sources close to the probe said.

They identified him as Adam Dzaziri, who had been raised in the hardline Salafi Islamic ideology, and did not have a criminal record.

Interior Minister Gerard Collomb said a car hit the leading vehicle in a line of police vans as they headed down the Champs-Elysees, near the Grand Palais exhibition hall. 

“The security forces have been targeted in France once again,” he said.

A man on the radar of French authorities was killed Monday after ramming a car carrying explosives into a police vehicle in Paris.AAP

Ministry spokesman Pierre-Henry Brandet said the car, a white Renault Megane, caught fire.

Video showed a thick orange smoke pouring from the car after the impact as the vehicle sat in the middle of the prestigious avenue which is lined with shops and cinemas.

Police sources told AFP that they found a Kalashnikov assault rifle, two handguns, ammunition as well as a gas bottle in the car.

The “arms, explosives… could potentially blow this car up,” Collomb said. Sources previously told AFP that there were multiple gas bottles in the car.

No police or bystanders were injured in the incident, which occurred near the Grand Palais exhibition hall.

The suspect’s father told AFP that his son “had a registered weapon, he practiced shooting”. A source close to the case said the young man had a firearms permit.

Police searched on Monday night the residence the suspect shared with his family in Plessis-Pate, a town about 40 minutes’ drive from central Paris. 

The local mayor Sylvain Tanguy said the family was “very discreet and didn’t go out much”.

“You could tell when you saw them in the street that they were very religious,” he said.   

‘Threat remains extremely high’

Anti-terrorism prosecutors have opened an investigation into the incident that briefly sparked chaos on the world famous avenue.

“People were running every which way,” said a 51-year-old bystander who gave his name only as Alexandre. “Some shouted at me to get away.”

Police closed two of the Metro stations on the Champs-Elysees, but two hours after the attack tourists were back taking selfies of the Arc de Triomphe and visiting shops.

Collomb said the attack “shows once again that the threat (of an attack) remains extremely high in France”.

The incident occurred almost two months to the day after a policeman was shot and killed nearby in the runup to the first round of France’s presidential election.

The gunman, Karim Cheurfi, was shot dead by police and a note praising the Islamic State group was found next to his body.

On June 7, a hammer-wielding Algerian man was shot and wounded by police after he struck an officer on the head in front of Notre Dame cathedral in Paris, shouting it was in revenge “for Syria”.

He had pledged allegiance to the Islamic State group in a video found at his home.

String of attacks

The attack Monday was the latest in a string incidents in France and Britain.

Earlier Monday, a van ploughed into a crowd of Muslims near a London mosque, injuring 10 people. It was the second terror attack this month in the British capital.

Two weeks ago jihadists used a van and knives to kill eight people enjoying a night out around London Bridge. Three of the victims were French.

In May, a suicide bomber killed 22 people, including children, at a concert by US singer Ariana Grande in Manchester.

France remains under a state of emergency imposed after the November 2015 attacks in Paris, when IS jihadists slaughtered 130 people in a night of carnage at venues across the city.

Previous major attacks targeted the Paris offices of the Charlie Hebdo satirical magazine in January 2015.

A senior police officer and his female companion were both killed by a radicalised man at their home in the Paris suburbs a year ago.

And in July last year, a radicalised Tunisian man killed 86 people as he rammed a truck through a crowd watching Bastille Day fireworks in the Riviera city of Nice.

On Wednesday, the French government is to unveil a new anti-terrorism law, designed to allow the state of emergency to be lifted.

“To those who question the necessity of such laws, you can see that the state of France today necessitates it,” Collomb said.

“If we want to effectively ensure the security of our citizens, we must be able to take a certain number of measures,” he added.

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‘Portugal weeps’ as forest fire death toll rises to 63

Many victims were burnt as they were trapped in their cars around the epicentre of the blaze in Pedrogao Grande, in what is the deadliest such disaster in Portugal’s recent history.

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“Portugal weeps for Pedrogao Grande,” said the one newspaper while mainstream Publico’s headline simply read “Why?”

“The fire has reached a level of human tragedy that we have never seen before,” said a visibly moved Prime Minister Antonio Costa, who announced three days of mourning from Sunday.

After the death of a firefighter who had been hospitalised, the official death toll rose to 63, officials said. The total number of injured in the region of the fire since Saturday stood at 135.

Portugal’s national Route 236 was transformed into “a road of hell” where 47 of the fatalities occurred as the ferocious blaze ripped through the wooded countryside. Most of them families who had spent the afternoon at a beach on a nearby river, local authorities said.

Although the searing temperatures had dropped slightly on Monday, the fire was still raging, spreading to neighbouring regions of Castelo Branco and Coimbra, as firefighters continued their grim search for bodies.

Related readingTraumatised 

Local residents too have stepped in to try to stop the blaze. At the small village of Atalaia Fundeira, a big cloud of smoke billowed from a scrub of land as villagers including 76-year-old Palmira Coelho rushed out with buckets of water and a tractor arrived with a tank of water and hose. 

After 10 minutes of frantic activity, the fire was largely extinguished, leaving charred ground in its wake.

“I have witnessed a lot of fires, but never like this, it’s never happened here — the way it spread, the speed,” said Betty Jesus, a 50-year-old Venezuelan who has lived in the area for decades.

In the village of Figueiro, people are still traumatised by the swift moving blaze.

“The fire didn’t spread by the ground… it spread through the air at the height of the trees… in five minutes all were on fire in an area of around 10 kilometres,” said Virgilio Godinho.

“Our pain is immense,” said Portuguese President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa. “We feel a sense of injustice because the tragedy has hit those Portuguese of whom one speaks little — those living in an isolated rural zone.”

Related reading’Tree hit by lightning’

Police chief Almeida Rodrigues blamed dry thunderstorms for the blaze which broke out on Saturday in Pedrogao Grande, ruling out arson. “We found the tree hit by the lightning,” he said.

“Everything burnt very quickly given the strong winds. The flames passed within two or three kilometres of my house,” said local resident Isabel Ferreira, 62.

“It was really hell. I thought the end of the world had come,” said Maria de Fatima Nunes, another survivor.

The wooded hills in the area north of Lisbon, which 24 hours before had glowed bright green with eucalyptus and pine trees, were gutted by the flames.

Along the IC-8 highway cutting through the fire zone, smoke was still rising from the ground and small pockets of fire burned among the charred, black tree stumps.

One road running through Pedrogao Grande was littered with burnt-out cars. At one spot, a police officer watched over the covered body of a victim of the fire.

‘We lost everything’ 

Other bodies were found in houses in isolated areas. At least three villages near Pedrogao Grande were evacuated.

At a retirement home in Pedrogao Grande on Monday, about 150 people who had been evacuated or fled were waiting to learn when they could go home.

Military personnel arrive at the village of Vila Facaia to help recovery efforts in the aftermath of the 17 June forest fires (AAP)AAP

Boxes of donated food and drinks were outside the makeshift refuge, the air still reeking of smoke.

“We have people here who are waiting for news of their loved ones, who want to know and are really anxious,” said Soledade Lourenco, 51, a nurse volunteering at the centre.

Over the weekend, Portugal sweltered under temperatures topping 40 degrees Celsius (104 degrees Fahrenheit) in several regions.

About 35 forest fires continued to burn across the country on Monday, with more than 2,000 firefighters and 700 vehicles mobilised.

Spain, France and Italy have sent water-bombing planes and Greece has offered firefighters. The European Union has also offered to help.

Portugal was hit by a series of fires last year which devastated more than 100,000 hectares (1,000 square kilometres) of the mainland.

Fires on the tourist island of Madeira in August killed three people, while across 2016 around 40 homes were destroyed and 5,400 hectares of land burned. 

Arnold keen to restore Coleman lock combo

Rory Arnold is taking Adam Coleman’s ferocious lead as he pushes for a return to the Wallabies’ starting side for Saturday’s Test against Italy at Suncorp Stadium.

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Arnold is keen to restore his impressive second-row combination with Coleman from last year, having come off the bench in Australia’s last two matches.

His bruising 40-minute effort in replacing Sam Carter against Scotland was one of the few highlights for the team and could see him elevated after Wallabies coach Michael Cheika flagged multiple changes in response to the shocking 24-19 defeat in Sydney.

“I’ve done a couple of alright things off the bench,” Arnold said.

“It’s up to Cheik, if he wants me to stay on the bench to finish the game or if he wants me to start. I’ll take any opportunity he gives me.”

Arnold and Coleman, who have both played 11 Tests, were among the finds of the year for the Wallabies in 2016 as Cheika handed debuts to a flood of next-generation players.

Coleman, 25, is now Australia’s top lock and arguably one of the country’s most important players.

His relentless workrate, abrasive tackling and general physicality are qualities Cheika wants to see more of from the Wallabies and Arnold is not ashamed to admit he is trying to copy his teammate’s output.

“I enjoy playing with Adam. We had a couple of good games together,” he said.

“There’s always a bit of niggle around Adsy in a game.

“At the moment he’s carrying himself really well on the field.

“He likes that physicality, he likes throwing his body around. If you look at all the good locks in the world, they do that and do it well.

“That’s why he’s starting in the Wallabies at the moment – because he’s physical, big and likes to carry.

“I’m looking at what he does and seeing if I can bring that off the bench.”

No NSW prize for home Origin win

No NSW captain has lifted the State of Origin shield in Sydney since 2004, a statistic Blues legends are demanding must change on Wednesday night.

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The only problem: Presentation protocol will ensure the shield won’t be awarded until after Game III in Brisbane.

Even if the Blues clinch the series in front of an anticipated 80,000 fans at ANZ Stadium on Wednesday night, Origin tradition dictates that the presentation is held after the last match of the series.

It comes after Cameron Smith was handed the trophy in front of an almost-empty ANZ Stadium after 2016’s Game III dead rubber, despite having earlier wrapped up the series in Brisbane.

In fact, in three of the last four times the series has been decided after the second match, the victorious captain has lifted the shield away from their home fans.

As a result it’s a tradition that NSW legend Steve Roach said needs to change.

“It’s weird,” Roach told AAP.

“They should change it. If you win the shield on your own turf you should be able to lift it.”

Roach started at prop in 17 games for NSW between 1984 and 1991, and won three series with the Blues.

His call was also backed by the last halfback to direct NSW to a 3-0 series whitewash, Brett Kimmorley.

“You don’t want to go up and lift the Shield in front of Queensland. You want to lift it here in front of 80,000 NSW fans,” Kimmorley said.

The last Blue to lift the shield on NSW soil, Danny Buderus, could however find reason in the justification that the series isn’t formally over until the end of the last game.

Buderus captained NSW to their 2004 and 2005 series wins, and said neither presentation was more special – despite the latter of the victories coming in Brisbane.

“If I’m Boyd Cordner and I get to do it up there Game III, I’d be stoked,” Buderus said.

“It’s a proud moment no matter where it is.

“You want to enjoy it with your teammates, they’re the ones you’re looking straight at.”

The current NSW captain, Cordner, is for his part unfussed when he receives the trophy – as long as they win it.

“An Origin series win is an Origin series win, no matter where you lift the Shield or at what time,” he said.

“But it’s obviously a long way away.”

The annual issue will be put to bed for at least the next two series, with the second game of 2018 and 2019 to be held in Melbourne and Perth respectively.

Blues confident of repeating bench heroics

NSW captain Boyd Cordner has backed his bench to replicate a State of Origin I performance that former Blues enforcer Steve Roach labelled as one of the best ever.

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The Blues’ four bench players – David Klemmer, Wade Graham, Jake Trbojevic and Jack Bird – ran an extra 82 metres than their Queensland counterparts in NSW 28-4 series-opening win at Suncorp Stadium last month.

It ensured NSW lost no momentum either side of halftime, as they crossed for four of their five tries between the 40th and 60th minutes.

“They just didn’t lose tempo when blokes like Wade Graham and all those guys go on,” Roach said.

“It was a great performance, one of the best performances ever.

“But the big challenge is to do it more than one time.”

The Blues bench is likely to face a much sterner test on Wednesday night however.

Their performance also cost Queensland counterparts Sam Thaiday, Aidan Guerra and Jacob Lillyman their spots in the Maroons team, they were just some of the seven players axed by coach Kevin Walters.

It’s left Michael Morgan as the only player to remain from the Maroons’ Game I bench, while Josh Papalii has also dropped onto the interchange after starting in the back row at Suncorp Stadium.

The inclusions of Coen Hess and Tim Glasby could also provide a threat, given their combination with Queensland’s spine from their NRL clubs of North Queensland and Melbourne.

The Maroons new bench quartet have now scored 11 more tries and made double the amount of linebreaks their NSW opponents have in NRL matches this year.

Roach said the Blues longevity off the bench – highlighted by the fact Klemmer is the only member not to average at least 75 minutes per match at NRL level this year – should help them reproduce the same form from Game I.

“A lot of the blokes play for the 80 minutes,” he said.

“It means that they and everyone else can go out there and try and gas themselves.”

Cordner agreed with Roach’s assessment.

“Most of (the NSW bench) are normally starting players for their team anyway,” he said.

“They are quality players and they’ll now how to handle any situation that they’re put in.”

HOW THE BENCHES COMPARE AT NRL LEVEL IN 2017

Games – NSW: 49, Queensland: 51

Tries – NSW: 8, Queensland: 19

Average metres – NSW: 482, Queensland: 382

Tackle busts – NSW: 103, Queensland: 124

Try assists – NSW: 10, Queensland: 12

Line breaks – NSW: 13, Queensland: 26

Offloads – NSW: 43, Queensland: 36

Average tackles – NSW: 92.1, Queensland: 79.2

* Stats: Fox Sports Stats