At­tack at Paris land­mark halted

Po­lice stop a man with ham­mer and knives who in­jured an of­fi­cer out­side Notre Dame.

Los Angeles Times - - THE WORLD - By Kim Will­sher, Alexan­dra Zavis and Laura King alexan­dra.zavis @la­times.com laura.king@la­times.com Spe­cial cor­re­spon­dent Will­sher re­ported from Paris and Times staff writ­ers Zavis and King from Los An­ge­les and Wash­ing­ton, re­spec­tively.

PARIS — A ham­mer­wield­ing as­sailant shout­ing, “This is for Syria!” at­tacked po­lice out­side Notre Dame Cathe­dral on Tues­day, set­ting off a se­cu­rity scram­ble at one of Paris’ best-known land­marks. But he was wounded by po­lice gun­fire be­fore he could se­ri­ously in­jure any­one.

The abortive at­tack was the sec­ond strike in four days at a land­mark in a Euro­pean cap­i­tal, com­ing on the heels of an as­sault that left seven peo­ple dead and dozens hurt in Lon­don. French au­thor­i­ties iden­ti­fied Tues­day’s at­tacker as an Al­ge­rian man car­ry­ing stu­dent iden­ti­fi­ca­tion and said he was armed with two kitchen knives in ad­di­tion to the ham­mer.

The as­sailant, who was hos­pi­tal­ized along with one po­lice of­fi­cer, ap­par­ently acted alone, In­te­rior Min­is­ter Ger­ard Col­lomb told re­porters.

Hun­dreds of tourists were trapped for a time in the soar­ing 12th cen­tury cathe­dral, whose fly­ing but­tresses and stained-glass win­dows make it one of Paris’ most pho­tographed sites. Vis­i­tors and lo­cals alike scat­tered as gun­fire rang out in the cathe­dral’s broad plaza along­side the Seine river in cen­tral Paris.

Po­lice swiftly con­verged on the area, shout­ing at passersby to stay back. On­look­ers im­me­di­ately be­gan tweet­ing about the un­fold­ing event.

Among the tourists tak­ing shel­ter in Notre Dame was Nancy Soder­berg, a for­mer White House deputy na­tional se­cu­rity ad­vi­sor and am­bas­sador to the United Na­tions. She was vis­it­ing the cathe­dral with her 16-yearold niece when a cler­gy­man an­nounced that there had been “an in­ci­dent” out­side.

She tweeted a dra­matic pho­to­graph of vis­i­tors in the cathe­dral with their hands raised as po­lice searched the build­ing.

“It was re­ally fright­en­ing,” Soder­berg said by phone. “No one knew what was go­ing on, al­though ev­ery­one was very calm .... Once they close the doors, you can’t hear any­thing out­side; they’re so thick.”

Af­ter nearly two hours, a cler­gy­man in­formed them that the in­ci­dent was over and that they would be al­lowed to leave af­ter un­der­go­ing checks. The Lord’s Prayer was re­cited in French and English.

“I thought it was very well han­dled, but it makes you think twice,” Soder­berg said.

She and her niece were also in Lon­don on Satur­day night when three at­tack­ers used a van to ram pedes­tri­ans on Lon­don Bridge and then slashed pa­trons in nearby Bor­ough Mar­ket, al­though the two were in a dif­fer­ent part of the city.

“I think it is a strong sig­nal that we need to work to­gether to get to the bot­tom of th­ese is­sues,” Soder­berg said. “Peo­ple need to be vig­i­lant, but we can’t let [ter­ror­ists] ruin our way of life.”

On a cloudy midafter­noon, the es­planade out­side the cathe­dral was crowded with tourists and ven­dors. A wit­ness, David Rahul Me­treau, told France’s BFMTV that he had heard two shots about 4:20 p.m., then looked down from his apart­ment win­dow to see a man on the ground, sur­rounded by emer­gency per­son­nel.

France has been un­der a state of emer­gency since the Novem­ber 2015 bomb­ings and shoot­ings in Paris that killed 130 peo­ple. In the in­ter­ven­ing months, there have been scat­tered in­ci­dents, most in­volv­ing at­tacks on po­lice and other se­cu­rity per­son­nel.

Two months ago, a po­lice of­fi­cer was shot dead by an at­tacker on the Champs-El­y­sees. The killer was shot to death by other of­fi­cers. At­tacks at the Lou­vre Mu­seum in Fe­bru­ary and at Paris’ Orly air­port in March tar­geted sol­diers.

Tues­day’s episode be­gan when the at­tacker “ap­proached a po­lice of­fi­cer, took a ham­mer from his back­pack and hit the po­lice of­fi­cer over the head,” po­lice spokesman Yves Le­feb­vre said. Po­lice opened fire, wound­ing the man in the legs.

The of­fi­cer’s in­juries were not be­lieved to be se­ri­ous, he said.

Out of long prac­tice, au­thor­i­ties were quick to put out word that the in­ci­dent had ended rel­a­tively peace­fully. Forty min­utes af­ter the at­tack, the Paris pre­fec­ture of po­lice tweeted: “Sit­u­a­tion un­der control. One po­lice of­fi­cer in­jured. The at­tacker has been neu­tral­ized and taken to hos­pi­tal.”

Ber­trand Guay AFP/Getty Images

FRENCH po­lice guard the at­tack site out­side Notre Dame. Au­thor­i­ties said the at­tacker was an Al­ge­rian man and ap­par­ently acted alone.

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