Wednesday, 26 April 2017

FRANCE: Egyptian Tourist Identified As Louvre Attacker

The man who launched a machete attack outside the Louvre in Paris Friday is believed have been an Egyptian who entered the country on a tourist visa at the end of January.

He is also believed to have tweeted about the Islamic State group minutes before the assault.

The tweets came from "a Twitter account whose owner could be the attacker, adding that investigators were unable to formally confirm this at the moment.

The messages were posted in Arabic Friday on the account of an Abdallah El-Hamahmy. "In the name of Allah... for our brothers in Syria and fighters across the world," he wrote at 8.31am GMT.

One minute later he posted another tweet, making reference to the Islamic State group.

At least ten tweets were posted between 9:27 am and 9:34 am, shortly before the attack began at the Louvre at 9:50 am.

Police inquiries had established that the man, who was hovering between life and death after being shot, was a 29-year-old Egyptian who arrived in France on Jan. 26 after obtaining a tourist visa in Dubai, the Paris prosecutor said.

Reuters news agency, citing security sources in Cairo, said El-Hamahmy was born in Dakahlia, a province northeast of Cairo.
Police have searched an apartment the man had rented in Paris and are now working to establish whether he acted alone, on impulse, or on orders from someone, prosecutor Francois Molins told a news conference on Friday night.

The man was wearing a black T-shirt with a death's head emblem when he attacked soldiers checking bags near the museum's shopping mall "with a machete in each hand", Molins said.

He struck one soldier and knocked another one to the ground. When he continued his attacks the soldier on the ground shot him in the abdomen, Molins said.

Paintspray cans - but no explosives - were found in his back pack, a source close to the investigation told Reuters.

At a meeting of EU leaders in Malta, Hollande praised the courage and determination of the soldiers.

"This operation undoubtedly prevented an attack whose terrorist nature leaves little doubt," he said.

The soldier who shot the man was from one of the patrolling groups which have become a common sight in Paris since a state of emergency was declared in November 2015 following bomb and shooting attacks by Islamist militants. An anti-terrorism inquiry has been opened, the public prosecutor said.

The other was wounded in the scalp.

More than 230 people have died in France in the past two years at the hands of attackers allied to the militant Islamist group Islamic State.

El-Hamahmy, whose account was still publicly accessible early Saturday, tweeted on January 26 about travelling from Dubai to Paris, a journey which corresponds to the movements of the attacker.

Investigators are also examining an iPhone 7 and iPad belonging to the assailant, whose identity had yet to be confirmed late Friday.
However French investigators believe the man, who was shot and wounded by a soldier following the attack, is a 29-year-old Egyptian who entered the country on a tourist visa a week ago.

Prosecutor Francois Molins reported Friday night that his condition was stable.

The incident has thrust security and the terror threat back into the limelight three months before elections in France, with authorities saying it was a "terrorist" assault.