Attack near the Louvre Museum suspected to be terrorism

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Armed police officers cordon off the area outside the Louvre museum near where a soldier opened fire after he was attacked in Paris, Friday, Feb. 3, 2017. (AP Photo/Christophe Ena)

A knife-wielding man attacked French soldiers on patrol near the Louvre Museum Friday in what officials described as a suspected terror attack. The soldiers first tried to fight off the attacker and then opened fire, shooting him five times.

CGTN’s Elana Casas reports.

Attack near the Louvre Museum suspected to be terrorism

Attack near the Louvre Museum suspected to be terrorism

A knife-wielding man attacked French soldiers on patrol near the Louvre Museum Friday in what officials described as a suspected terror attack. The soldiers first tried to fight off the attacker and then opened fire, shooting him five times. CGTN's Elana Casas reports.
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The attack at an entrance to a shopping mall that extends beneath the museum sowed panic and again highlighted the threat French officials say hangs over the country, which was hit repeatedly by extremist attacks in 2015 and 2016.

A police union official said the attacker was carrying two backpacks and had two machetes. He said the man launched himself at the soldiers when they told him that he couldn’t bring his bags into the Carrousel du Louvre shopping mall underneath the world-famous museum where the “Mona Lisa” hangs and which went into emergency lock-down.

“That’s when he got the knife out and that’s when he tried to stab the soldier,” said the official, Yves Lefebvre.

The four soldiers first tried to fight off the attacker before opening fire, said Benoit Brulon, a spokesman for the military force that patrols Paris and its major tourist attractions. President Francois Hollande praised the troops’ “courage and determination.”

Anti-terrorism prosecutors took charge of the investigation. There were no immediate details about the identity of the attacker. “Allahu akbar” is the Arabic phrase for “God is great” and is a part of the Islamic prayer. The attacker had reportedly shouted the phrase. 

The military patrols — numbering about 3,500 soldiers in the Paris area — were instituted following the January 2015 attacks on Paris’ satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo and reinforced after Nov. 13 suicide bomb and gun attacks that left 130 people dead at the city’s Bataclan concert hall and other sites.

Friday’s attacker slightly injured one of the soldiers, in the scalp, officials said. Another soldier opened fire, gravely wounding the attacker.

“He is wounded in the stomach,” said police chief Michel Cadot. “He is conscious and he was moving.”

Checks of the man’s two backpacks found they didn’t contain explosives, he said.

Cadot said a second person who was “acting suspiciously” also was arrested, but appears not to have been linked to the attack.

President Donald Trump says that a “new radical Islamic terrorist” is behind an attack outside the Louvre Museum in Paris.

Trump tweeted early Friday that America needs to “get smart,” in light of the incident.

He writes, “a new radical Islamic terrorist has just attacked in Louvre Museum in Paris. Tourists were locked down. France on edge again.”

Restaurant worker Sanae Hadraoui, 32, was waiting for breakfast at the Louvre’s restaurant complex when she heard the first gunshot, followed by another and then a couple more.

“I hear a shot. Then a second shot. Then maybe two more. I hear people screaming, “Evacuate! Evacuate!”

“They told us to evacuate. I told my colleagues at the McDonald’s. We went downstairs and then took the emergency exit.”

Hadraoui, who has worked at the Louvre for seven years, said the evacuation was orderly.

The museum in the center of Paris is one of the French capital’s biggest tourist attractions. Police sealed off entrances and closed the area to vehicles, snarling traffic, and shooed away confused tourists.

The Louvre’s security protocol kicked in, with entrances locked down and visitors who came to admire the paintings and sculptures shepherded into rooms without windows.

Interior Ministry spokesman Pierre-Henry Brandet said about 1,000 people were inside and were held in safe areas before the all-clear was given.

Story by The Associated Press