French police were conducting a series of raids across Paris after French soldiers were forced to open fire on a man armed with machetes who shouted “Allahu Akbar” as he tried to enter the famous Louvre museum.
French Prime Minister Bernard Cazeneuve said the attack was “clearly of a terrorist nature” as a terror probe was launched and the Louvre evacuated.
French officials close to the investigation into the attack said several police raids were underway in the French capital.
A police official, speaking anonymously because he is not allowed to disclose details about the case, wouldn’t give details on the precise location of the police raids on Friday afternoon.
A police union official, Luc Poignant, said one of the raids took place on Rue de Ponthieu, a street near the Champs-Elysees Avenue, the city’s famed boulevard.
Police chief Michel Cadot held a media conference at which he said the attacker was carrying machetes and a rucksack — later found not to contain explosives — and shouted threats as well as “Allahu Akbar” (“God is greatest” in Arabic).
The Ministry of the Interior also confirmed a woman was arrested at the scene, but said it was unclear what role, if any, she had in the incident.
“The soldier fired five bullets,” Mr Cadot said, describing how the man hurried threateningly towards the soldiers.
“It was an attack by a person … who represented a direct threat and whose actions suggested a terrorist context.”
President Francois Hollande praised the “courage and determination” of the soldiers.
An anti-terrorism inquiry has been opened, the public prosecutor said in a statement.
The identity and nationality of the attacker remains unknown for now, French Interior Ministry spokesman Pierre-Henry Brandet told reporters.
One source said the man had been trying to get into the museum’s underground shop and had attacked one soldier, who was slightly injured, before another soldier fired the shots, one of which struck in the attacker in the stomach.
The police spokesman said the area was evacuated and cordoned off.
Numerous tourists were locked inside the museum while the drama unfolded.
France has been hit by a series of militant Islamist attacks over the past two years.
Paris was also planning to submit its official bid to host the 2024 Olympic Games with a launch show at the Eiffel Tower later in the day.
The country is less than three months away from a presidential election in which security and fears of terrorism are among the key issues.
It has been living under a state of emergency since November 2015.
US President Donald Trump tweeted his reaction to the attack, saying it showed the US needs to “get smart”.
On Friday, he Trump 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.”
– with AAP/AP