PARIS — French soldiers opened fire on a man wielding a machete who shouted “Allahu akbar” as he attacked them near the Louvre museum in Paris on Friday. The attacker was seriously wounded and has been hospitalized.
The incident happened at the Carrousel du Louvre, an underground shopping center that connects to the museum. The world-famous Louvre is home to Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa. It wasn’t immediately clear if any tourists were at the scene of the attack at the time.
Yves Lefebvre, a police union official, said the attacker, who was carrying two backpacks and two machetes, attacked a soldier when he was told that he couldn’t bring his bags into the mall.
“That’s when he got the knife out and that’s when he tried to stab the soldier,” Lefebvre said, according to the Associated Press.
French President François Hollande said there’s “no doubt” that the attack was of a “terrorist nature.” Hollande said Friday that the situation is “totally under control” but the overall threat of terrorism to France remains, the AP reported.
The attacker was undergoing an emergency operation at the Georges Pompidou hospital, thelocal.fr reported. Hollande said he expects the assailant to be questioned “when it is possible to do so,” according to AP.
Benoit Brulon, a security official, said the four soldiers tried to fight the man off before opening fire, the AP reported. The attacker was shot five times, and no explosives were found in his bags, Le Monde reported.
Paris police chief Michel Cadot said the attacker shouted “Allahu akbar”, Arabic for “God is the greatest.” The man, who has not been named, was wounded in the stomach, he said.
The famed Louvre will stay closed for the rest of the day but is set to reopen on Saturday, France’s culture minister Audrey Azoulay said.
Le Musée du Louvre réouvrira ses portes demain matin samedi 4 février. Merci pour votre compréhension et votre soutien !
— Musée du Louvre (@MuseeLouvre) February 3, 2017
Some Parisians who heard initial reports braced themselves for another terror attack similar to the one in November 2015 that killed 130 people at locations in Paris including the Bataclan concert hall.
“When the story broke at first, I said crap, it’s happening again, but then I saw it was quickly under control,” Jean Leroux, 29, an artist in Paris, told USA TODAY.
“In the end I saw it was a minor isolated act, and I thought it’s not like at the Bataclan,” Leroux added.
A new radical Islamic terrorist has just attacked in Louvre Museum in Paris. Tourists were locked down. France on edge again. GET SMART U.S.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 3, 2017
Austin Chang, 34, a tourist from Taiwan, was visiting Paris for the first time and went to the Louvre on Wednesday.
“It’s terrible,” he said of the attack. “The terrorists always attack the place with tourists or with lots of people. I was lucky maybe. Maybe it’s dangerous but I still like the city very much and I still appreciate the things in Paris.”
President Trump tweeted Friday: “A new radical Islamic terrorist has just attacked in Louvre Museum in Paris. Tourists were locked down. France on edge again. GET SMART U.S.”
Trump signed an executive order a week ago restricting travel to the U.S. from seven Muslim-majority countries. The nationality of the attacker Friday wasn’t immediately known.
— Wang Feng (@ulywang) February 3, 2017
One soldier sustained a minor scalp injury, the AP reported. Cadot said a second person who was “acting suspiciously” was arrested, but did not appear to have any involvement in the attack.
A photo obtained by Le Figaro showed a man lying on the floor inside the mall surrounded by armed officers.
Hundreds of people who were inside the Louvre stayed in special secure rooms during the attack. They were later evacuated and the museum was closed. French authorities said it will reopen on Saturday.
France is on high alert after a series of terror attacks, including the Nov. 2015 assaults and a truck attack in Nice in July that killed more than 80 people. The Islamic State claimed responsibility for both those attacks.
Chang, the tourist, was on a 3-day visit to Paris after a business trip to Germany. He said he thought about the attacks while planning his stay, but the urge to visit the French capital was too strong.
“I finally decided to come anyway — because it’s Paris,” he said. “I will come back again.”