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French police shoot man dead on anniversary of Charlie Hebdo attacks

Police sources say the man was wearing a fake suicide vest and carrying a meat cleaver when he entered a police station in northern Paris
French police stand guard after the incident in the northern suburb of Barbes (Twitter)

French police shot dead a man near a police station in northern Paris on Thursday, the first anniversary of the deadly Charlie Hebdo attacks that hit the city.

The man was carrying a meat cleaver and appeared to be wearing a suicide vest, the interior ministry said, although police sources later reported that the vest was fake.

"On Thursday morning, a man attempted to attack a policeman at the reception of the police station before being hit by shots from the police," said interior ministry spokesman Pierre-Henry Brandet.

"Bomb disposal experts are at the scene working to secure the site," he said, adding that Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve had left for the scene.

A prosecutor told the AFP news agency that the man was also carrying the emblem of the Islamic State (IS) group on a piece of paper. 

"He was found to be in possession of a mobile phone and a piece of paper on which the flag of Daesh was printed, as well as an unequivocal claim handwritten in Arabic," the prosecutor said in a statement, using the Arabic name for IS.

A seperate source added that  piece of paper found on the man's body "vows allegiance" to IS and said that he was avenging French "attacks in Syria", the source told AFP.

Soren Seelow, a journalist with French daily Le Monde who was on the scene, reported police sources as saying the shot man was wearing a garment that resembled an explosive vest and that may have been fake.

Sources told Seelow the man was wearing "a vest bound together with electrical tape and with wires hanging out," but made no mention of explosives.

A witness told AFP he heard “two or three shots” during the incident, which occurred early on Thursday afternoon in the northern suburb of Barbes.

The area around the police station had been put on lockdown, and police said they were treating the incident as "potential terrorism".

Army units have been deployed to secure the area.

Two schools in the vicinity of the incident have been shut for the day, and police have urged residents of the suburb to remain indoors.

AFP put out a warning after a social media user posing as one of their journalists claimed to name the attempted attacker as a Belgian national sought by police in connection with November's devastating attacks in Paris during which 130 people were killed.

The man shot dead on Thursday was not carrying identification papers, and has yet to be formally identified.

The attack came just moments after France observed a minute's silence to remember the victims of last year's attack, which saw 12 people, including one police officer, shot dead when gunmen entered the Paris headquarters of satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo.

Following a manhunt, the two attackers were tracked down and died in a shootout with police two days later.

Four people were also killed in a Jewish supermarket where shoppers were held hostage by a linked gunman who was also shot dead by police.

During an address at a memorial ceremony on the first anniversary on Thursday, French President Francois Hollande warned that the threat of extremism had not diminished since last year's attacks, and paid tribute to police and the security services.