French Prime Minister says Louvre Museum attack was “terrorist in nature”

PARIS, France (CNN/CBS) — A soldier on duty at a shopping mall near the Louvre museum in Paris opened fire on a man who attempted to attack him with a knife, local media reports say Friday.

The man had rushed towards a group of soldiers and guards in the Carrousel du Louvre, the underground plaza near the museum, according to Michel Cadot, the Paris prefect. Wielding the weapon, the man shouted “Allahu akbar” (God is greatest), Cadot says.

The soldier fired five shots in response.

The attacker was wearing two backpacks and may have had a second weapon, Cadot says. He was seriously injured by a bullet to the stomach. The solider was lightly injured.

No explosives were found in the backpacks of the man, who was taken into custody alive.

According to Cadot, remarks made by the suspect led security forces to believe he wanted to carry out a terrorist attack. The assailant lunged at the soldier before he was shot, Cadot says.

French Prime Minister Bernard Cazeneuve responds Friday the incident was “terrorist in nature.”

About 200 people are in lock-down inside the Carrousel du Louvre, and the nearby metro station has been shut down, Cadot says.

A group of U.S. college students were among those caught up in the security lockdown during the incident. Cassandra Bolt, from the University of Georgia, tells CBS News she and her friends were among dozens who had been corralled into a lower floor until police gave them the all-clear to leave.

Visitors to the Louvre museum in Paris huddle in a large room in the basement, where they were taken for their safety during an apparent terror attack by a man wielding a machete who lunged at a soldier outside the museum, Feb. 3, 2017. (Cassandra Bolt via CBS)
Visitors to the Louvre museum in Paris huddle in a large room in the basement, where they were taken for their safety during an apparent terror attack by a man wielding a machete who lunged at a soldier outside the museum, Feb. 3, 2017. (Cassandra Bolt via CBS)

Taylor Walstrum, one of the American students, tells CBS News they were in the room with the iconic Mona Lisa painting when there was a loud announcement followed by “lots of frantic movement” by museum staff, who rushed everyone down into a basement room.

“A lady told us to evacuate because there was a terrorist attempt,” Bolt says. “I was really nervous. They led us downstairs and we waited there for like two hours. I heard no gunshots but I heard a lot of police sirens.”

Cobbe says the soldier involved in the incident was part of increased security measures taken at the Carrousel du Louvre, an underground shopping area around the museum, put in place after Paris terror attacks in 2015.

The French Interior Ministry tweets there is an ongoing “serious security incident” near the Louvre. A following tweet confirms there was an attacker armed with a machete who encountered an officer.

The Louvre District is in the heart of Paris, and draws millions of tourists from around the world every year.

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