Published: Wed, June 14, 2017
World Media | By Shelia Harmon

Police Officer Attacked Outside Notre Dame Cathedral

Police Officer Attacked Outside Notre Dame Cathedral

Police officers seal off the access to Notre Dame cathedral in Paris, Tuesday, June 6, 2017.

It is the first attack since President Emmanuel Macron won last month's election and comes days before a parliamentary poll in which opinion surveys show Macron on course to win a landslide majority.

France has been under a state of emergency since November 2015 attacks.

Collomb said the officer's condition is not serious. The coordination unit will be based at the Elysee palace and operational 24 hours a day.

Among the several hundred people ordered to remain inside the cathedral was former USA ambassador to the United Nations, Nancy Soderberg. She was visiting the cathedral with her 16-year-old niece when a priest announced that there had been "an incident" outside.

Outside the Cathedral, armed police officers were patrolling the esplanade at the time of the attack.

The Cathedral of Notre Dame of Paris, in English Our Lady of Paris, is one of the most famous of the Gothic cathedrals of the Middle Ages and is enormously popular with tourists.

"A person came up behind the police officers, armed with a hammer, and started to hit the police officer", Interior Minister Gerard Collomb told reporters. The attacker's motives were unknown.

Throngs of tourists outside the cathedral fled on foot, while hundreds of people remained in lockdown inside the edifice.

The attack caused panic among visitors in the area. "I heard two shots and saw a man lying on the ground in a pool of blood", one witness said. Two auxiliary bishops were also present, Dalle said, and reassured the crowd.

"From what I know of his personality, though we haven't been in contact for a while, this leaves me completely stupefied", Mercier said of Ikken, who had worked as a journalist in Algeria and Sweden.

Tourists who took refuge in the cathedral were being checked by police before being allowed to leave.

About 13 million people visit Notre Dame every year, making it the most visited site in France.

In interviews with The Associated Press, they identified the man as Farid Ikken. She did not provide further details. The square was evacuated.

"Paris prosecutors opened a counter-terrorism investigation soon after the attack after the hammer-wielding Algerian said he was an "ISIS soldier of caliphate", according to a probe source", reports Daily Mail UK.

Authorities are now investigating whether the incident was an act of terrorism. Michel said the attacker was "neutralized" by police.

He said preliminary information indicated the attacker had acted alone.

The police department tweeted about the operation on Tuesday afternoon.

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