A man who attacked a soldier at the Louvre museum in Paris on Friday cried “Allahu akbar” before he was shot. French police said they believed the man, who was seriously wounded in the incident, intended to carry out a terrorist attack.
The man who had two backpacks shouted “God is great” in Arabic and lunged at the soldier at the entrance to the museum shortly after 10am local time. The soldier responded by shooting five bullets into the man, who is “gravely wounded” but alive.
A bomb squad was sent to the scene, but inspection of the backpacks revealed that they had no explosives, according to police chief Michel Cadot, speaking at the scene. Dozens of police officers, cars and ambulances are still on site.
“We are dealing with an attack from an individual who was clearly aggressive and represented a direct threat, and whose comments lead us to believe that he wished to carry out a terrorist incident,” said Mr Cadot.
“There was also a second individual who was behaving suspiciously, who has also been detained, but for now there does not appear to be a link between that individual and the attack,” he added.
France has been the target of a number of terrorist attacks by Islamic extremists over the past two years that have left hundreds dead and the country in a state of high alert.
The most deadly was in November 2015 in Paris where Islamic extremists killed 130 and 413 wounded. Last year 84 people, including 10 children, were killed when a man drove a truck into crowds celebrating Bastille Day in Nice.
Following the 2015 attack, France has declared a state of emergency, and soldiers have been on patrol across sensitive sites. The Louvre museum in the centre of Paris is one of the French capital’s biggest tourist attractions.
The attack on Friday comes just three months before the Presidential election, where far-right leader Marine Le Pen is expected to win the first round of the election on an anti-immigration and populist platform
She is then expected to lose the second round of the election to a more mainstream candidate, according to the polls, but there are concerns that a major terrorist attack in Paris could increase her popularity at a sensitive time.
The Rue de Rivoli, a main street running alongside the museum was closed to traffic Friday morning while trains were being pushed through the Palais Royal-Musee du Louvre metro station without stopping.
The French interior minister said that there had been a “serious public security event” and warned people to clear the way for the police. A police spokesperson said: “The man pulled out a knife, attacked the soldiers and they responded”.
The anti-terrorist division of the public prosecutor’s department said it has opened an inquiry into the terrorist attack.
Sample the FT’s top stories for a week
You select the topic, we deliver the news.