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Investigators believe Louvre attacker is an Egyptian tourist

The Louvre will reopen tomorrow after the ‘serious public’ attack on French soldiers – involving two 40-centimetre machetes.

Updated 10.00pm

FRENCH INVESTIGATORS NOW believe the man who launched a machete attack outside the Louvre in Paris, before being shot and wounded by a soldier, is a 29-year-old Egyptian who entered the country on a tourist visa.

The incident has thrust security and the terror threat back into the limelight three months before elections in France, with authorities saying it was a “terrorist” assault.

The attacker, in a black t-shirt bearing a skull design and armed with two 40-centimetre (16-inch) machetes, lunged at four patrolling French soldiers while shouting “Allahu Akbar” (“God is greatest”), Paris prosecutor Francois Molins told a press conference.

One of the troops was struck on the head and another fell to the ground outside the famous Paris museum after the assailant attacked. The second soldier managed to open fire and hit the machete-wielder in the stomach.

“The attacker fell to the ground, seriously wounded. He has been taken to hospital and is fighting for his life,” the prosecutor said.

A source later said that the suspect’s condition had stabilised. Security forces said one soldier had suffered a minor head wound.

France Louvre Shooting Source: Thibault Camus/Press Association Images

French President Francois Hollande said that “there is little doubt as to the terrorist nature of this act,” an assessment echoed by Prime Minister Bernard Cazeneuve.

France was already still reeling from a string of terror attacks over the last two years and the country has been under a state of emergency since November 2015.

The economy, immigration and security are major issues for voters ahead of presidential and parliamentary elections forecast to confirm the country’s shift right after five years of Socialist rule.

US President Donald Trump tweeted that a “new radical Islamic terrorist has just attacked in Louvre Museum in Paris. Tourists were locked down. France on edge again. GET SMART US.”

‘Sad and shocking’

Witnesses described scenes of panic as people fled the Louvre complex following the incident.

“We heard gunshots. We didn’t know what it was about. Then we evacuated the employees and we left,” one man who works in a nearby restaurant told AFP.

A woman colleague said: “We saw death coming for us, with everything that’s happening at the moment. We were very, very scared.”

The Louvre closed following the attack – but will be open again tomorrow.

France Louvre Shooting Source: Christophe Ena/PA Images

Paris’ lucrative tourism industry has been a major casualty of the terror attacks, with visitors cancelling or shortening their stays.

Thousands of troops have been deployed to guard the capital, groups of soldiers carrying automatic rifles a regular sight both inside the Louvre and around its sculpture-filled gardens.

Security forces simulated an attack there in early December to rehearse for such an emergency.

“It’s so sad and shocking… we can’t let them win, it’s horrible,” British tourist Gillian Simms, visiting Paris with her daughters, told AFP.

Jessie McCaw, a 18-year-old from the US state of Montana, said she had been evacuated but she appeared unfazed.

“I’m not worried because the police seem prepared in France, which is reassuring,” she said.

The former royal palace in the heart of the city houses legendary artworks as well as shops and restaurants.

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But visitor numbers have slid some two million since 2015 to 7.3 million after the spate of recent attacks across France hit its claim to be the world’s most visited museum.

String of attacks

France Louvre Shooting Source: Christophe Ena/AP

The series of terror attacks in France began in January 2015 when jihadist gunmen rampaged through the Charlie Hebdo satirical newspaper and a Jewish supermarket, leaving 17 people dead in three days of bloodshed.

Ten months later, gunmen and suicide bombers from the Islamic State jihadist group attacked bars, restaurants, a concert hall and the national stadium in Paris, killing 130 people.

And last July, a Tunisian extremist rammed a lorry through crowds celebrating Bastille Day in Nice on France’s south coast, crushing 86 people to death.

Security has been a key campaign theme ahead of the presidential election in April and May, which a parliamentary election will follow in June.

Rightwing candidate Francois Fillon, whose tough line on immigration and Islam made him an early poll favourite, has been ensnared in a damaging parliamentary expenses scandal in recent days.

Anti-immigrant far-right leader Marine Le Pen is hoping for a boost from the furore and Trump’s election, while 39-year-old centrist independent Emmanuel Macron is also climbing in the polls.

Today’s incident came on the very day that Paris submitted its formal bid dossier to host the 2024 Summer Olympics.

© – AFP 2017

Additional reporting Aoife Barry and AFP

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