A man who attacked a French soldier at the Louvre in Paris on Friday cried "Allahu akbar” before he was shot and seriously wounded by security forces in what authorities believe was an attempted terrorist attack.
he man, who was carrying two backpacks, lunged at the soldier with a knife at the entrance to the museum shortly after 10am local time. The soldier shot the attacker five times; police said he was "gravely wounded” but alive.
Though a bomb squad was sent to the scene, police chief Michel Cadot said the backpacks had no explosives. Dozens of police officers, cars and ambulances rushed to the site.
"We are dealing with an attack from an individual who was clearly aggressive and represented a direct threat, and whose comments led us to believe that he wished to carry out a terrorist incident,” said Mr Cadot.
François Molins, the French prosecutor, said late on Friday that the attacker had been identified as a 29-year-old Egyptian who had arrived in Paris on January 26 after acquiring a one-month tourist visa in Dubai. Mr Molins said that police were trying to establish whether he acted alone or was following orders.
Donald Trump, the US president, who has imposed a migration ban on travellers from seven Muslim-majority countries, took to Twitter shortly after the incident to say that it should ring alarm bells in the US.
France has been the target of a number of terrorist attacks by Islamist extremists over the past two years that have left hundreds dead and the country in a state of high alert.
The most deadly was in November 2015 in Paris where Islamist extremists killed 130 and wounded 413 in bombings and machinegun attacks across the capital. Last year 84 people, including 10 children, were killed when a man drove a truck into crowds celebrating Bastille Day in Nice.
The country’s population lives with the constant fear of terrorism, writes Simon Kuper
Following the 2015 attack, France declared a state of emergency and soldiers have been on patrol across sensitive sites. The Louvre is one of the French capital’s biggest tourist attractions.
The attack on Friday comes just three months before the French presidential election, where Marine Le Pen, leader of the far-right National Front, is expected to win the first round on an anti-immigration and populist platform.
She is then expected to lose the second round to a more mainstream candidate, according to the polls, but there are concerns that a terrorist attack in Paris could increase her popularity at a sensitive time.
The Rue de Rivoli, a main street running alongside the museum, was closed to traffic on Friday morning while trains were passing through the Palais Royal-Musée du Louvre Métro station without stopping.
The French interior minister said there had been a "serious public security event” and warned people to clear the way for the police. A police spokesperson said: "The man pulled out a knife, attacked the soldiers and they responded.” Mr Cadot said a second suspect was detained but later released when it became clear he was not involved in the incident.
The anti-terrorist division of the public prosecutor’s department said it has opened an inquiry into the terrorist attack.