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‘Terrorist in nature’: Knife attacker shot outside Louvre in Paris

A man tried to attack a French soldier with a knife Friday near the Louvre museum in Paris. The soldier shot and seriously injured the attacker. (Video: Reuters)

PARIS — A French soldier shot and seriously wounded a knife-wielding man Friday who attempted to attack security forces outside the Louvre museum. France’s prime minister called the assault “terrorist in nature.”

Details about the suspect were not immediately disclosed, but French media reported that he shouted “Allahu akbar,” or “God is great” in Arabic, as he charged at the soldier.

The incident immediately stoked fears across Paris after a series of terrorist attacks in the French capital and across France in the past two years, including the November 2015 rampage through Paris that claimed 130 lives and last July’s truck ramming in Nice that left more than 80 people dead.

In Washington, President Trump, a week after imposing a travel ban on seven Muslim-majority nations, tweeted: “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.”

Likewise, Marine Le Pen, the leader of the far-right populist National Front party and an increasingly popular contender for the French presidency, issued a similar message. “Support our soldiers who are in the front line against the threat and Islamist barbarism,” she said.

French police said the attacker was armed with at least one machete and was carrying two briefcases as he attempted to enter the museum’s shopping center. When he was refused entry to the Carrousel du Louvre, he allegedly pulled out a knife and attacked the soldier, who then fired five rounds into the attacker’s stomach, France’s interior ministry tweeted.

Bernard Cazeneuve, France’s prime minister, described the knife attack as clearly “terrorist in nature.” No explosives were found in the man’s two bags, the interior ministry tweeted.

The soldier was slightly wounded in the scalp, and the attacker remained alive. The interior ministry also said a second person was arrested in connection to the attack.

Authorities evacuated the area. Officials at the Louvre, one of the main tourist attractions in the world and the historic home of the famous Mona Lisa, said the museum was closed and the visitors already inside were being kept there, according to the interior ministry.

Pierre-Henry Brandet, the interior ministry spokesman, said about 1,000 people were inside the museum at the time.

According to the AFP news agency, the Louvre has suffered from a general decline in visitors to France since the recent attacks in the country. In 2016, 7.3 million people visited the museum, a 15 percent decline from the previous year.

Uniformed soldiers carrying automatic rifles, known as Operation Senintelle, can regularly be seen walking in the area around the museum.

Schmidt reported from Washington. Derek Hawkins in Washington contributed to this report.