A hammer-wielding terrorist attacked Paris police and wounded one officer at Notre Dame Cathedral before being shot and wounded by security.
A terrorist wielding a hammer attacked Paris police guarding Notre Dame Cathedral on Tuesday, crying “This is for Syria!” before being shot and wounded by officers outside one of France’s most popular tourist sites.
At least 600 people were blocked inside the iconic 12th century church while police first secured the streets around it, then combed the pews while visitors sat with their hands raised for the check. Others fled in panic from the sprawling esplanade outside the cathedral.
The assault was the latest act of terrorism targeting security forces at high-profile sites in France, which remains under a state of emergency after a string of Islamic terror attacks.
No group immediately claimed responsibility, but police searching a residence linked to the attacker in the Paris suburb of Cergy-Pontoise found a declaration of allegiance to the Islamic State (ISIS) terror group, according to the Paris prosecutor’s office.
Interior Minister Gerard Collomb told reporters that a police officer in a three-person patrol was lightly wounded in the attack, and the terrorist was shot and wounded by a fellow officer.
A hammer and kitchen knives were found on the terrorist as well as a student identity card indicating he was from Algeria, Collomb said. He said authorities were working to verify the card’s authenticity.
“We have passed from a very sophisticated terrorism to a terrorism where any instrument can be used for attacks,” the interior minister said.
The head of the Municipal Police Defense Union, Cedric Michel, said the attacker was about 40 years old.
‘It Was Really Scary’
Among the several hundred people ordered to remain inside the cathedral was a former US ambassador to the United Nations, Nancy Soderberg. She was admiring the church’s stained glass windows when a French announcement came on urging those inside to stay calm as police dealt with an incident outside.
The visitors got nervous when they were told soon after that the doors were closing and everyone had to stay inside, Soderberg told The Associated Press from inside Notre Dame.
“It was really scary. We had no idea if there were any accomplices inside,” she said.
Soderberg said those inside the cathedral remained calm and orderly throughout, despite not knowing what was happening. But “everyone was very quiet and very scared” when police came in to check the cathedral’s pews row by row, she said.
“We will remember this for the rest of our lives,” she said. “Now everyone just wants to go home.”
The attack came the day before new President Emmanuel Macron unveils his first efforts against terrorism, which Collomb said was the top priority.
Paris remains under high security after a string of Islamic terror attacks in recent years, including several targeting police officers and security personnel.
In April, a terrorist opened fire on a police van on Paris’ Champs Elysees, killing one and gravely wounding two others. The terrorist was shot dead by police.