A MAN wielding a machete and shouting “Allahu akhbar” (“God is greater”) has been shot five times after attacking a soldier outside the Louvre in Paris.
Officers said that the attacker was seriously injured in the incident, which forced the evacuation of the museum and surrounding area.
The police chief of Paris added that the man was carrying two backpacks, but neither contained explosives.
The soldier was slightly injured during the assault.
A tweet from France’s Interior Ministry said: “Grave public security event under way in Paris in the Louvre quarter, priority (given) to the intervention of security forces and emergency personnel.”
The Rue de Rivoli running alongside the museum was closed to traffic while trains were being pushed through the Palais Royal-Musee du Louvre metro station without stopping.
Olivier Majewski was just leaving his scooter in the parking area beneath the Louvre when he saw a crush of people, 30 or 40, running and screaming “there’s been a terror attack”.
The 53-year-old said he hid for about 15 minutes before making his way upstairs. He said people were clearly scared. “They were panicked,” he said.
Witnesses who were waiting to leave the Louvre said they heard gunfire and could smell smoke.
Students Mei Xiayou and Ying Zhang said all the visitors were led to a safe area, which was packed with people.
“We were standing in the safety area and after half an hour, we smelled some smoke and then thought ‘maybe this is true, there might be gunshots’,” said Ying Zhang.
US President Donald Trump later claimed that a “new radical Islamic terrorist” was behind the attack.
Mr Trump tweeted early on Friday that the US needs to “get smart” in light of the incident.
He wrote: “A new radical Islamic terrorist has just attacked in Louvre Museum in Paris. Tourists were locked down. France on edge again.”
France was put under a state of emergency following terror attacks that claimed hundreds of lives in Paris and Nice.
The incident comes months before France elects a new president with incumbent Francois Hollande deciding not to seek a second term after his opinion poll ratings dropped during the state of emergency.
The museum in the centre of Paris is one of the French capital’s biggest tourist attractions.
Soldiers on patrol are part of security measures that have been beefed up in the wake of terror attacks in France in 2015 and 2016.
Police union official Yves Lefebvre said the man attacked soldiers when they told him he could not enter an underground shopping mall beneath the Louvre with his bags.
Mr Lefebvre says police found two machetes on the man.
Police have sealed off entrances around where the attack took place and closed the area to vehicles, snarling traffic in a busy part of central Paris.
The situation is mainly calm, with confused tourists being gently ushered away by officers.
The French interior ministry says anti-terrorism prosecutors are investigating the attack but that there are no details about the identity of the attacker.
Interior Ministry spokesman Pierre-Henry Brandet says a second person was also arrested but it is unclear whether that person was linked to the attack.
The attack took place only hours before leaders of Paris’s bid for the 2024 Olympics unveil their final candidate files.
French officials have repeatedly dismissed security concerns over the bid despite the wave of attacks that have left more than 200 people dead in the country over the past two years.
The attack will raise more questions before Friday’s ceremony near the Eiffel Tower, although bid officials claim the French capital has the experience needed to organise and protect major events if it gets the 2024 Games.
Speaking outside the Louvre, Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo, who will attend the ceremony alongside athletes and other bid leaders, said all big cities in the world are under threat.
She said that “there is not a single one escaping that menace”.
Paris, which has not hosted the Olympics since 1924, is competing against Budapest and Los Angeles.
The International Olympic Committee will choose the host city in September.