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Thursday 19 October 2017

Critically hurt assailant shot in Louvre 'terror attack' thought to be Egyptian

Police officers patrol at the pyramid outside the Louvre in Paris (AP/Thibault Camus)
Police officers patrol at the pyramid outside the Louvre in Paris (AP/Thibault Camus)
French police close to the Louvre Museum in Paris
Police officers outside the Louvre in Paris (AP/Thibault Camus)
A soldier has shot an attacker outside the Louvre in Paris

The man who attacked soldiers in front of the Louvre Museum in Paris is believed to be an Egyptian, French authorities have said.

The 29-year-old, who was living in the United Arab Emirates, is in a life-threatening condition in hospital after being shot, prosecutor Francois Molins said.

He said the man's identity has not been formally confirmed but the French soldiers' quick reactions put an end to "a terror attack" at one of Paris' most iconic tourist attractions.

He said "everything shows that the assailant was very determined".

French president Francois Hollande told reporters at an EU summit in Malta that there was "no doubt" the attack was of a "terrorist nature".

He said the situation around the landmark museum is "totally under control" but the overall threat to France remains. Mr Hollande said he expects the assailant to be questioned "when it is possible to do so".

US president Donald Trump claimed that a "new radical Islamic terrorist" was behind the attack. Mr Trump tweeted early on Friday that the US needs to "get smart" in light of the incident.

Police said the man, who was carrying two backpacks and had two machetes, reacted when soldiers told him he could not enter a shopping area below the museum with his bags.

The man tried to attack the soldiers after yelling "Allahu akbar", the Arabic phrase for "God is great". A soldier opened fire and the man was struck five times, including once in the stomach, Paris police chief Michel Cadot said.

The backpacks did not contain any explosives, he added. One of the soldiers was slightly wounded on the scalp.

Mr Molins said the attacker had no identity papers but investigators used his mobile phone to find out that he was a resident in the United Arab Emirates and came to Paris on a tourist visa on January 26.

Two days later he is said to have bought two military machetes at a gun shop in Paris.

Several police raids are said to have happened in the French capital, two French officials close to the investigation said.

A police union official, Luc Poignant, said one of the raids took place on Rue de Ponthieu, a street near the Champs-Elysees Avenue.

The Louvre will stay closed for the rest of Friday but will reopen on Saturday, culture minister Audrey Azoulay said. She visited soldiers guarding the famed museum as part of heightened security measures.

Interior Ministry spokesman Pierre-Henry Brandet said that a second person was also arrested but it is unclear whether they were linked to the attack.

He added about 1,000 people were inside the museum and held inside in safe areas.

Olivier Majewski was in the parking area beneath the Louvre when he saw about 30 or 40 people running and screaming "there's been a terror attack".

The 53-year-old said he hid for about 15 minutes before making his way upstairs. He said people were clearly scared.

Other witnesses who were waiting to leave the Louvre said they heard gunfire and could smell smoke.

Students Mei Xiayou and Ying Zhang said all the visitors were led to a safe area, which was packed with people.

The attack took place only hours before leaders of Paris's bid for the 2024 Olympics unveil their final candidate files.

AP

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