Tuesday 25 April 2017

Louvre reopens 24 hours after machete attacker shot

Police near the Louvre Museum in Paris where a French soldier shot and seriously injured a man in a shopping area beneath the museum
Police near the Louvre Museum in Paris where a French soldier shot and seriously injured a man in a shopping area beneath the museum
French Prime Minister Bernard Cazeneuve speaks during the launch of the bid by Paristo host the 2024 Olympic summer games (AP Photo/Francois Mori)

The Louvre museum has reopened to the public, less than 24 hours after French soldiers shot a machete-wielding assailant who had shouted "Allahu akbar".

The world-famous Paris museum, host to thousands of artworks including the Mona Lisa, was open as usual, with armed police and soldiers guarding visitors.

The attacker was shot four times after slightly injuring a soldier patrolling the nearby underground mall. His injuries are no longer being described as life-threatening, the Paris prosecutor's office said.

French president Francois Hollande said there is "no doubt" the suspect intended to carry out a terror attack, and he will be questioned as soon as possible.

An Egyptian interior ministry official confirmed that the attacker is Egyptian-born Abdullah Reda Refaie al-Hamahmy, 28.

The official said an initial investigation in Egypt found no record of the main being involved in political activism, criminal activity or membership of any militant group.

The suspect was believed to have been living in the United Arab Emirates and came to Paris on January 26 on a tourist visa, prosecutor Francois Molins said.

The suspect bought two military machetes at a gun store in Paris and paid 1,700 euro (£1,462) for a one-week stay at a Paris apartment in the upmarket eighth arrondissement, near the Champs-Elysees.

On the Twitter account of an "Abdallah El-Hamahmy," a tweet was posted about a trip from Dubai to Paris on January 26. In the profile photo, Hamahmy is seen smiling and leaning against a wall in a blue-and-white sports jacket.

In another tweet in Arabic written shortly before the Louvre attack, Hamahmy posted: "No negotiation, no compromise, no letting up, certainly no climb down, relentless war."

In an interview on the Dubai-based news channel al-Hadath, Hamahmy's father, Reda Refae al-Hamahmy, said he was shocked to learn of his son's alleged involvement in the latest Paris attack and denied that he was a radical or belonged to any militant groups.

"All I want is to know the truth and find out whether he is dead or alive," he said.

"This is all a scenario made up by the French government to justify the soldiers opening fire.

"He is a very normal young man."

Hamahmy's father said his son is married with a seven-month-old child, and had told them he intended to tour the sights in Paris before leaving France. He sent his father a photo of himself with the Eiffel Tower in the background shortly before the clash at the Louvre.

Hamahmy's brother Ahmed, who works at the health ministry in Dubai, was interrogated for several hours by security officials in the United Arab Emirates, the father said. In Egypt, several domestic security agency officers visited the family home in the Nile Delta on Friday night to question family members.

The United Arab Emirates condemned the attack at the Louvre, but UAE officials offered no comment about the suspect's possible connection to the country.

The UAE, which includes the commercial hub of Dubai, is a major destination for guest workers from Egypt and other countries. Foreign residents outnumber native Emiratis roughly four to one.

"The UAE, while strongly condemning this hideous crime, affirms its full solidarity with the friendly French Republic in these circumstances and its support for whatever measures France may take to preserve its security and safety of its citizens and residents," the ministry of foreign affairs and international cooperation said.

France is working with the Emirates to build a branch of the Louvre in the federal capital, Abu Dhabi. The project has been repeatedly delayed and is now expected to open later this year.

AP

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