A man armed with a hammer shouting, “This is for Syria,” attacked police officers on Tuesday outside the Notre Dame cathedral in Paris, the interior minister said. The Paris prosecutor’s office opened a terrorism investigation.
The assailant wounded one officer before he was shot and wounded by other officers. Journalist David Metreau, who said his office overlooks the square that fronts Notre Dame, tweeted that there were two blasts that sounded like shots. Looking down from his office, he saw a man inert on the square.
Interior Minister Gerard Collomb said the attacker was carrying the identification card of an Algerian student. He said preliminary information indicated that the attacker had acted alone.
Dozens of armed police sealed off the area and the cathedral in central Paris that is visited by millions of tourists every year was locked down while the security forces secured the area.
“Situation under control, one policeman injured, the assailant was neutralized and taken to hospital,” Paris police said on Twitter.
France is under a state of emergency after a wave of terror attacks since early 2015 that have killed more than 230 people across the country. Soldiers patrol its streets alongside police to guard tourist sites, government buildings and events.
Hundreds of tourists were inside the cathedral when the attacker struck.
One tourist on vacation who was stuck inside Notre Dame posted on Twitter, “Not the holiday experience wanted. Trapped in Notre Dame Cathedral after police shoot a man. We are with our two terrified children.”
Karine Dalle, a spokeswoman for the Paris diocese, told BFM TV 900 people were inside the cathedral as police secured the area.
Among those held inside was Nancy Soderberg, former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations.
Soderberg told The Associated Press that those inside got nervous when they were told soon after that the cathedral’s doors were closing and everyone had to stay there.
She says the group stayed calm and orderly throughout, despite not knowing what was happening, though “everyone was very quiet and very scared” when police came in to check the cathedral’s pews row by row.
Soderberg tweeted a photo from inside the Notre Dame, showing those locked inside putting their arms in the air as instructed by police.
Updated Tuesday, June 6, 2017 at 1:44 pm