PARIS police say a suspect was shot and wounded on Tuesday after attacking an officer outside Notre Dame cathedral. The Paris prefecture of police tweeted an alert urging people to avoid the area.
Police took to Twitter to urge people to stay away from Notre Dame and the island located in central Paris known as Île de la Cité. Numerous police cars have filled the area and an ambulance was seen leaving the scene.
Police officials said a man armed with a hammer attacked and lightly wounded a police officer who was patrolling in front of the cathedral. The attacker was then “neutralised” by police and taken to hospital.
Speaking to reporters after arriving at the scene, French Interior Minister Gérard Collomb said the attacker shouted, “This is for Syria!” before he struck. Collomb said the suspect was carrying an Algerian student identity card and appears to have acted alone.
Prosecutors said earlier that they had opened an anti-terrorism probe into the incident.
The cathedral was placed on lockdown and visitors took shelter inside as the police operation was under way in the square. Witnesses said those inside were asked to raise their hands over their heads.
France remains in a state of emergency and at its highest terror warning level after a series of terrorist attacks in recent years.
Police asking everyone to raise their hands in the church pic.twitter.com/y5KkyWqdWK
— Matthew CurrieHolmes (@mch2k) June 6, 2017
Smaller, “lone wolf” attacks have often targeted France’s security forces. A police officer was killed and two others were wounded on April 20 when an attacker opened fire on their vehicle on the Champs-Élysées avenue. A 39-year-old man was killed at Paris’s Orly Airport in March after attacking a soldier while a man armed with a machete attacked soldiers on patrol at the Louvre Museum in February.
Thousands of troops and armed police have been deployed to guard tourist hotspots such as the Champs-Élysées or other potential targets, including government buildings and religious sites.
France has been on high alert since January 2015, when gunmen killed 17 people in attacks at the Charlie Hebdo satirical magazine and a Kosher supermarket. Several bars and restaurants in Paris, including the Bataclan concert hall, were targeted in attacks that left 130 dead on November 13 of that same year. A truck rammed through a festive crowd gathered for a Bastille Day fireworks display in Nice in July 2016, leaving more than 80 people dead.
In September last year, three women were charged in connection with a failed terror plot after seven gas cylinders was discovered in a car near Notre Dame cathedral. Officials later said the women had been planning to attack one of Paris’s largest railway stations, the Gare de Lyon.