France’s President François Hollande has said there is “no doubt” that the attempted attack at the Louvre Friday morning was of a terrorist nature.
Hollande added that the situation at the museum – where a French soldier guarding the central Paris attraction opened fire on a man armed with a knife after he attempted to enter the site – is totally under control, but the terrorist threat to France remains.
Michel Cadot, the head of the Paris police force, said a man carrying two backpacks shouted “Allahu akbar” (meaning ‘God is great’) as he “launched” himself at a French soldier in the Carrousel du Louvre area of the museum at around 10 a.m. A different soldier then shot at the unidentified attacker five times, leaving him seriously wounded. Two machetes were found at the scene.
“We are dealing with an attack from an individual who was clearly aggressive and represented a direct threat, and whose comments lead us to believe that he wished to carry out a terrorist incident,” Cadot said, Sky News reports. The police chief also said a second person was detained after they were spotted behaving suspiciously near the scene.
The area has been evacuated, according to police. French Prime Minister Bernard Cazeneuve described the incident as “an attempted attack of a terrorist nature” during a visit to Bayeux in Normandy.
U.S. President Donald Trump responded to the attack on Twitter:
France’s interior ministry released a statement calling the event “serious” and asked locals to “prioritize the intervention of security and rescue forces”. For security reasons, the station Palais Royal Louvre Museum was closed.
France’s culture minister, Minister Audrey Azoulay, said the museum – which houses Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa – would stay closed for the rest of the day
Interior Minister Bruno Le Roux said French police and soldiers succeeded in ensuring that all 1,200 people at the museum at the time were safe and secure, the Associated Press reports. Louvre visitor Conor Bakhuizen, 18, who was in Paris on a school trip, said he “was in the foyer and suddenly rushed into another room in the museum.” He said the mood was “very tense at first but everyone was vigilant.”
France has become a major target for terrorists; attackers allied with ISIS have killed more than 230 people in the country over the past two years, according to Reuters.
Last July, 86 people were killed in the southern city of Nice when a man drove a truck into a crowd on the seafront, and last September, three women were arrested in connection to a vehicle containing gas canisters found near Paris’ Notre Dame cathedral.
The country faces a presidential election this spring, and security fears and the threat of ISIS are major issues being discussed by candidates. The capital was planning to formally submit a bid to host the 2024 Olympic Games to the International Olympics Committee (IOC) Friday.
This is a breaking news story and will be updated