A terror probe has been launched in Paris after a machete-wielding man was shot while attacking four soldiers outside the Louvre.

The suspect was shot five times in the stomach and is in a critical condition.

He was shouting ‘Allahu Akbar’ – Arabic for ‘God is the greatest’ – according to the Paris chief of police, and reportedly had paint bombs in his backpack.

Reuters reported that Egypt’s interior ministry had received confirmation from their embassy in Paris that the suspect was Egyptian.

A source close to the investigation said the suspect was an Egyptian man who arrived in France at the end of last month.

An unconfirmed report by French TV network LCI named the suspect as 29-year-old Abdallah EH, who arrived in France on a flight from Dubai on January 26.

He was not known to security services, said the network.

After being refused entry to the Louvre, he pulled out the weapon and was shot by a soldier, officials have confirmed. A paratrooper is believed to have suffered a minor head injury.

US President Donald Trump tweeted following the attack in the French capital: ‘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.’

A second man was arrested after ‘acting suspiciously’ close to the scene, police now do not believe he was linked to the attack.

French Prime Minister Bernard Cazeneuve has described the attack as ‘terrorist in nature’.

An estimated 1,250 people were inside the famous art gallery, home to the Mona Lisa, when the shooting happened. Pictures from inside the museum shows schoolchildren cowering during the emergency lockdown.

A building in the city’s 8th arrondissement was raided by police this afternoon in connection with the attack.

Meanwhile, surgeons were operating on the suspect at the Georges Pompidou Hospital and soldiers guarded his ward.

Interior ministry spokesman Pierre-Henry Brandet said the identity of the suspect was not yet known.

Interior minister Bruno Le Roux cut short a trip to the Dordogne and visited the injured soldier.

A photo from inside the nearby Carrousel du Louvre shopping mall showed the attacker wearing light trousers and a black top as he lies in a crumpled heap at the bottom of a flight of stairs below the Tuileries Gardens, which are next to the Louvre museum.

He entered at the other side of the complex, on the Rue de Rivoli, where security search bags, and can also ask for identification.

The image was taken by a tour guide who had been leading a group of Chinese tourists. None of them were injured.

France’s culture minister, Audrey Azoulay, said the Louvre Museum will stay closed for the rest of the day for security reasons, but will reopen tomorrow.

Soldiers patrolling as part of France’s ongoing State of Emergency stopped the man getting into the building shortly after 9am.

‘He was carrying a suitcase and was refused access,’ said a police source at the scene. ‘The man immediately withdrew a knife, and attacked.

‘It was at this moment that a soldier used his weapon to disable the men, who was wounded. The area has been evacuated.’

A spokesman for the military force that patrols key sites in Paris said the four-man patrol of soldiers tried to fight off the assailant before they opened fire.

Benoit Brulon said a soldier who was slightly injured by the attacker was not the solider who opened fire.

The alleged attacker is in a ‘serious condition’, officials have said.

French newspaper L’Express reports he was taken to the Georges-Pompidou hospital, where he is undergoing surgery.

Michel Cadot, the Paris prefect, said at the scene: ‘Emergency workers are currently trying to revive him.

‘He was shot five times in the stomach, but is still alive. A soldier was also injured.’

Mr Cadot said the attack happened at the top of an escalator that leads down into the shopping complex.

He said the knifeman ‘appeared to be acting alone’, and that the words used pointed to extremist terrorism.

Mr Cadot said the soldier had to ‘neutralise the attacker’ after the soldier was lightly injured by the assailant.

The suspect’s rucksack was searched, but there was no sign of any explosives.

Authorities did, however, discover paint bombs in his bag, Le Figaro reports.

The drama unfolded next to the Carrousel du Louvre – a vast underground shopping centre built into the museum complex.

The huge former royal palace in the heart of the city is home to the Mona Lisa and other world-famous works of art but also a shopping complex and numerous exhibition spaces.

It is always packed with thousands of tourists from all over the world, all of whom have their bags inspected before entry. By 11am, the entire area was shut down, as hundreds of extra soldiers and police flooded into the area.

The Rue de Rivoli running alongside the museum was closed to traffic while trains were being pushed through the Palais Royal-Musee du Louvre metro station without stopping.

The emergency response was filmed on live video app Periscope this morning.

Police union official Yves Lefebvre said the man attacked soldiers when they told him he could not enter an underground shopping mall beneath the Louvre with his bags.

Mr Lefebvre says police found two machetes on the man.

Among the visitors caught up in the terror were students and staff from Godalming College in Surrey.

A message sent by college chiefs to staff and parents, seen by Get Surrey, said while the drama was ongoing: ‘We wanted to let you know that we have been in contact with the Trip Leaders and that all the students and staff are together, safe, and are following advice from security services.

‘They are being kept all together in an area of the museum at the moment. From what we are able to glean at this early stage it appears to be an isolated incident.’

Prime Minister Theresa May’s spokesman said travel advice for the French capital had been amended due to the incident.

He told a Westminster briefing: ‘The travel advice to Paris has been updated, basically exercising caution in the area affected. Our threat level remains where it is.

‘The Foreign Office has been liaising with their counterparts in France. Obviously, we are ready to assist if required.’

‘We’ve been told to leave – it’s very frightening,’ said John O’Shea, a 52-year-old Canadian who was with his wife and young son.

‘Everybody is talking terrorism, but we really don’t know what’s going on. Apparently a number of shots were fired.’

Restaurant worker Sanae Hadraoui, 32, was waiting for breakfast at the Louvre’s restaurant complex when she heard the first gunshot.

She said: ‘I hear a shot. Then a second shot. Then maybe two more. I hear people screaming, “Evacuate! Evacuate!

‘They told us to evacuate. I told my colleagues at the McDonalds. We went downstairs and then took the emergency exit.’

Hadraoui, who has worked at the Louvre for seven years, said the evacuation was orderly. She was smoking a cigarette when her managers told her people were going back inside.

Paris is on a high state of terrorist alert following murderous attacks by Islamic State operatives in 2015.

On November 13 2015, 130 people were murdered in a single night of violence which included attacks on the Stade de France, the Bataclan concert venue and cafés and restaurants.

A shop worker who was in the shopping centre at the time of the attack said: ‘We heard gunfire and reacted immediately – shutting down the grills in front of the shop, and retreating into the back.’

The 19-year-old man, who asked not to be named added: ‘Once the all-clear was given by the police we got out as quickly as possible. I’m on my way home.

‘You always hear about the possibility of terrorism, especially in the area around the Louvre, but this was the real thing.’

Anne Hidalgo, the Socialist Mayor of Paris, soon arrived at the scene to praise the ‘extreme efficiency’ of the soldiers who foiled what could have been a very serious attack.

Paul Lecher, 68, who was inside the Louvre when the attack happened, said: ‘(The announcement) came over the loudspeakers that are dotted around.

‘Everything happened calmly. It was just a case of listening … People quickly understood, even those who didn’t understand a word of French, that something unusual was happening.’

Visitors were kept inside for a time after the attempted attack.

‘There were announcements, then the security guards started running all over the place and after a short period they started gathering everybody up and getting them to one side of the building,’ said Lance Manus, 71, from Albany, New York.

Manus and his wife Wendy said security guards made people sit tightly together, away from the windows, and that some children were crying.

‘We sat there for over an hour waiting and finally they said we are going to evacuate… as we exited the police were searching and checking everybody.’

A French Socialist lawmaker who wrote a report on the fight against terror has warned that France faces a ‘double menace’, coming from both outside the country and from within.

Sebastien Pietrasanta told The Associated Press that ‘the worst has yet to come’.

Mr Pietrasanta said that France is likely to be targeted again, either by well-organized cells sent by the Islamic State group, or by lone wolves radicalized in France and capable of launching attacks from one day to the next.

The said: ‘We are facing a persistent threat and instability will last for at least one generation.’

He added that military personnel and police officers are particularly targeted by extremists because they represent the French state.

French President Francois Hollande said there is ‘no doubt’ that the attack on the Louvre Museum was of a ‘terrorist nature’.

Speaking at an EU summit in Malta, he said the situation around the Paris landmark museum is ‘totally under control’ but the overall threat to France remains.

He said he expects the assailant to be questioned ‘when it is possible to do so’.

Hollande insisted the incident showed the need for the increased security patrols that have been deployed around France since attacks in 2015 and 2016.

 

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