Soldiers thwart at­tack on Lou­vre

Cape Breton Post - - WORLD -

Paris was plunged into panic Fri­day — again — when soldiers guard­ing the Lou­vre Mu­seum shot an at­tacker who lunged at them with a ma­chete and shouted “Al­lahu Ak­bar!” as the his­toric land­mark went into lock­down.

The threat ap­peared to quickly re­cede af­ter the as­sailant was hos­pi­tal­ized, but it cast a new shadow over the city just as tourism was be­gin­ning to re­bound af­ter a string of deadly at­tacks. The tim­ing was also un­for­tu­nate: just hours be­fore Paris fi­nal­ized its bid for the 2024 Olympics.

The sus­pect is be­lieved to be an Egyp­tian na­tional, two po­lice union of­fi­cials said, though no other in­for­ma­tion about his iden­tity or mo­tive was re­leased.

Anti-ter­ror­ism pros­e­cu­tors took charge of the in­ves­ti­ga­tion into what French Pres­i­dent Fran­cois Hol­lande said was “no doubt” a ter­ror­ist at­tack.

Po­lice car­ried out raids near the tree-lined Champs-El­y­sees linked to the at­tack, which came two months af­ter au­thor­i­ties car­ried out a spe­cial an­titer­ror­ism ex­er­cise around the Lou­vre.

Fri­day’s at­tack tar­geted an en­trance to a shop­ping mall that ex­tends be­neath the sprawl­ing mu­seum, a me­dieval for­mer royal palace now home to the Mona Lisa and hun­dreds of other mas­ter­pieces.

The 1,200 peo­ple in­side the Lou­vre — one of the world’s big­gest tourist at­trac­tions — were first shut­tled into win­dow­less rooms as part of a spe­cial se­cu­rity pro­to­col be­fore be­ing evac­u­ated.

The mu­seum in cen­tral Paris re­mained closed for the rest of Fri­day but will re­open on Satur­day, Cul­ture Min­is­ter Au­drey Azoulay told re­porters.

Hol­lande, at a news con­fer­ence Malta where he was at­tend­ing a Euro­pean Union sum­mit, said that while the Lou­vre in­ci­dent was quickly con­tained, the over­all threat to France re­mains. He said the in­ci­dent showed the need for the in­creased se­cu­rity pa­trols de­ployed around France since at­tacks in 2015.

Po­lice union of­fi­cial Yves Le­feb­vre said the Lou­vre at­tacker was car­ry­ing two back­packs and had two ma­chetes. He said the man lunged at the soldiers when they told him he couldn’t bring his bags into the Car­rousel du Lou­vre shop­ping mall.

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

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.

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

In­te­rior Min­is­ter Bruno Le Roux praised the soldiers, say­ing “to wear a uni­form, as we can see in the pro­pa­ganda of those who want to at­tack us, is to be a tar­get.”

One sol­dier was slightly in­jured in the scalp, of­fi­cials said. An­other sol­dier opened fire, gravely wound­ing the at­tacker 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, Cadot said. He said a sec­ond per­son who was “act­ing sus­pi­ciously” also was ar­rested but ap­peared not to have been linked to the at­tack.

AP PHOTO

Armed po­lice of­fi­cers pa­trol in the court­yard of the Lou­vre mu­seum near where a sol­dier opened fire af­ter he was at­tacked in Paris, Fri­day.

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