Key Points:

    • One police officer killed in Champs Elysees shooting
    • One suspect shot dead
    • At least one other suspect thought to be on the loose
    • French President Francois Hollande says he is convinced the shootings are a terrorist act.
    • Isis claiming responsibility
    • Central Paris in lockdown
    • Attack comes three days before presidential election
    • France under state of emergency
    • New Zealand travellers registered with SafeTravel have been told to avoid the affected area and to follow the instructions of local authorities.

The Islamic State group has claimed responsibility for the shooting on Paris' Champs Elysees that killed a police officer and left two others gravely wounded.

In a statement from its Amaq news agency, the group gave a pseudonym for the shooter indicating he was Belgian.

The attacker opened fire on a police van on the avenue before being killed.

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The claim of responsibility came unusually swiftly for the group, which has been losing territory in Iraq and Syria.

And the pseudonym, Abu Yusuf al-Beljiki, indicated that the attacker already had ties of some sort to Islamic State extremists.

A gunman opened fire on French police on a renowned Paris boulevard on Thursday night, killing one and wounding two others before being fatally shot himself in an incident that shook France just three days before a crucial election.

Police sources tell Reuters there is a second shooting in a location near Champs Elysees.

The French Interior Ministry, confirming the shooting, said two police officers were "seriously wounded" and that security forces gunned down the attacker. The ministry said the person fired on a police car.

A spokeswoman for the Paris police, Johanna Primevert, said the gunman attacked police guarding an area near the Franklin Roosevelt metro station Thursday night at the center of the heavily traveled Champs-Élysées avenue, the Associated Press reported.

There was no immediate indication of a possible motive for the attack, nor any immediate claim of responsibility. But French police said they have opened a terrorism investigation in the case.

The incident occurred three days before France holds the first round of a presidential election. The country has been hit by a deadly wave of terrorist violence in the last two years that has claimed the lives of at least 230 people, with hundreds more injured.

The shooting - on the most famous boulevard in the French capital, always crowded with tourists and commuters - came just two days after authorities arrested two men in the southern city of Marseille on suspicion of plotting what Paris prosecutors described as an "imminent" and "violent" attack. Police discovered an Islamic State flag and three kilograms of explosives in one of their homes.

The Islamic State has claimed responsibility for previous attacks in France, including a coordinated November 2015 terrorist assault on multiple targets in Paris that left 130 people dead and more than 360 wounded.

Police officers take positions near the Champs Elysees avenue in Paris, France. Photo / AP
Police officers take positions near the Champs Elysees avenue in Paris, France. Photo / AP

After that attack and others in the last two years - many perpetrated by Islamic State militants or those claiming to be inspired by the extremist group - terrorism and national security remain crucial issues in the most contentious election France has seen in decades.

The leader of the far-right National Front party, Marine Le Pen, has campaigned heavily on an anti-immigrant platform and what she has couched as the need to defend France from "Islamist globalization." In the final days of the campaign, she said she would halt immigration altogether if elected president.

The shooting occurred in the middle of a televised campaign event, when each of the 11 current candidates was given 15 minutes to sell voters on their respective platforms.

The Paris police department promptly shut down the boulevard and advised pedestrians and commuters to avoid the Champs-Élysées, citing an ongoing operation.

At least three metro stations were closed, the Interior Ministry said.

There was no immediate information on the identities of the attacker or the policemen who were shot.

Police seal off the Champs Elysees avenue in Paris, France, after a fatal shooting in which a police officer was killed along with an attacker. Photo / AP
Police seal off the Champs Elysees avenue in Paris, France, after a fatal shooting in which a police officer was killed along with an attacker. Photo / AP

French Interior Ministry spokesman Pierre-Henry Brandet said police officers were deliberately targeted but that it was too early to say what the motive was, Reuters reported. The news agency said police sources had said earlier that the shooting could have stemmed from an attempted armed robbery.

In Washington, President Trump said during a news conference with the visiting Italian prime minister that the Paris shooting "looks like another terrorist attack," and he offered s condolences to France.

A police officer stands guard after a fatal shooting in which a police officer was killed along with an attacker on the Champs Elysees in Paris, France. Photo / AP
A police officer stands guard after a fatal shooting in which a police officer was killed along with an attacker on the Champs Elysees in Paris, France. Photo / AP

According to Christophe Crépin, a spokesman for the UNSA Police Union, at least two men drove onto the Champs-Elysée and targeted officers patrolling near a Marks and Spencer store on the corner of the busy avenue.

Crépin said the whereabouts of the second alleged gunman were not yet known.

- with AP