PARIS – Paris remained on edge after an intruder wielding a machete was shot by a French soldier in the Louvre museum’s underground shopping center on Friday morning.
When told that he could not enter with his two knapsacks, the man tried to attack a soldier and reportedly shouted “Allahu akbar” (Arabic for “God is great”). Another soldier opened fire on the assailant, who is understood to be a 29-year-old Egyptian national.
No explosives were ultimately found in the attackers’ bags.
“Serious incident for public security going on in Paris’ Louvre neighborhood, with priority given to the intervention of security and rescue forces,” France’s Ministry of the Interior tweeted at 10:19 a.m. CET.
The Louvre, the world’s most visited museum, and its mall, called the Carrousel du Louvre, remained closed for the rest of Friday after the last people were evacuated in small groups. The Louvre and its adjoining Tuileries Gardens were temporarily cordoned off, and the nearby metro station was shut to passengers.
Bruno Le Roux, France’s Interior Minister, returned to Paris from Dordogne, France, for a meeting Friday afternoon regarding the incident. In a statement, he lauded the composure and professionalism shown by the military and police personnel, “which allowed the armed individual to be neutralized, while protecting personnel and visitors present.”
Le Roux also tweeted: “This event reminds us that the menace is present and that security is everyone’s affair.”
The Louvre’s shopping center is due to reopen along with the museum on Saturday. The mall is home to dozens of stores, including Printemps, Lacoste, Sandro, Caudalie, Fragonard, Jo Malone, L’Occitane and Apple.
A spokeswoman for Unibail-Rodamco, the French commercial real estate firm that owns the shopping mall, and a spokeswoman for Printemps had no comment on the event.
However, industry sources expect the fallout from it will be minimal, as the attack was contained – unlike the other numerous, deadly terrorist incidents in France over the past two years.
The most recent of those was in July, when a truck rammed into Bastille Day revelers in the southern city of Nice that left more than 85 dead and injured hundreds. That followed the January 2015 attacks on satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo and a kosher grocery store in Paris, and the November 2015 shooting at the Bataclan concert hall, also in the French capital. Following the latter, France was put under a state of emergency.
“I suspect in terms of [the recent event’s] impact on people’s behavior, it’s going to be quite limited domestically,” said George Wallace, chief executive officer of consultancy MHE Retail Europe. “I think internationally, it’s yet another reminder to foreign visitors that European cities – and perhaps Paris in particular – are risky places to go. So it’s still very unwelcome. Just as a wound starts healing over, then it gets opened up all over again by an incident like this.”
Indeed, tourist spending in France had been on the rebound. It recorded a strong underlying pickup, of plus 21 percent, in December, contributing to Europe’s third successive month of positive growth, at 4.6 percent, according to an analysis of the latest Global Blue data by Barclays.
Friday marked the second time the Carrousel du Louvre has been shut in the last six months. In June, it was shuttered after the river Seine flooded, almost matching a 30-year record high at 6.1 meters, or 20 feet.