France: Machete attacker shot at Louvre in Paris

By: |
Paris | Published: February 4, 2017 2:11:00 AM

A French soldier patrolling at the Louvre museum shot and seriously injured a machete-wielding attacker, thrusting security and the terror threat back into the limelight three months before elections.

A general view shows the Carrousel du Louvre and the Louvre Pyramid. (Reuters)A general view shows the Carrousel du Louvre and the Louvre Pyramid. (Reuters)

A French soldier patrolling at the Louvre museum shot and seriously injured a machete-wielding attacker, thrusting security and the terror threat back into the limelight three months before elections.

Police held hundreds of tourists in secure areas of the world famous attraction after the assailant was shot five times around 10:00 am (0900 GMT) in a public area near one of the museum’s entrances.

Sources investigating the incident said the attacker is a 29-year-old man, adding he said in his visa application he was Egyptian-born.

The man is thought to have entered France on a flight from Dubai on January 26, a source said.

The man wielded a machete and shouted “Allahu Akbar” (“God is greatest”) as he lunged at soldiers patrolling outside the Louvre, home to the Mona Lisa and one of the world’s most-visited museums.

Security forces described the attacker as being in a serious condition while one soldier suffered a minor head wound. A second machete, along with cans of spray paint were found in the man’s backpack.

City police chief Michel Cadot said the assailant was armed with “at least one machete” and added a man whose behaviour was “suspicious” had also been arrested.

As authorities probed the attacker’s background French President Francois Hollande said that “there is little doubt as to the terrorist nature of this act,” an assessment echoed by Prime Minister Bernard Cazeneuve.

France was already still reeling from a string of terror attacks over the last two years and the country has been under a state of emergency since November 2015.

The economy, immigration and security are major issues for voters ahead of presidential and parliamentary elections forecast to confirm the country’s shift right after five years of Socialist rule.

Witnesses described scenes of panic as people fled the Louvre complex following the incident.

“We heard gunshots. We didn’t know what it was about. Then we evacuated the employees and we left,” one man who works in a nearby restaurant told AFP.
The Louvre closed following the attack — but will re-open on Saturday.

Paris’ lucrative tourism industry has been a major casualty of the terror attacks, with visitors cancelling or shortening their stays.

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Thousands of troops have been deployed to guard the capital, groups of soldiers carrying automatic rifles a regular sight both inside the Louvre and around its sculpture-filled gardens.

Security forces simulated an attack there in early December to rehearse for such an emergency.

But visitor numbers have slid some two million since 2015 to 7.3 million after the spate of recent attacks across France hit its claim to be the world’s most visited museum.

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