Suspect in Louvre attack wanted to harm paintings, avenge Syrian people

PARIS, Feb 7 (Reuters) - A man arrested by police for attacking soldiers with a machete outside the Louvre museum in Paris last week said he wanted to damage paintings and "avenge" the Syrian people, a judicial source said on Tuesday.

Abdullah Reda al-Hamahmy confirmed his name, his age of 29 and his Egyptian nationality to investigators after initially refusing to speak, the source said.

He was carrying spray paints in his backpack and said he wanted to damage the paintings at the world-famous museum, the source said, adding that the suspect's statements should be taken with caution.

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Machete attack at the Louvre museum
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Machete attack at the Louvre museum

French police officers and soldiers patrol near the Louvre museum on February 3, 2017 in Paris after a soldier has shot and gravely injured a man who tried to attack him. 'Serious public security incident under way in Paris in the Louvre area,' the interior ministry tweeted on February 3 as streets in the area were cordoned off to traffic and pedestrians.

(ALAIN JOCARD/AFP/Getty Images)

French police officers patrol near the Louvre museum on February 3, 2017 in Paris after a soldier has shot and gravely injured a man who tried to attack him. 'Serious public security incident under way in Paris in the Louvre area,' the interior ministry tweeted on February 3 as streets in the area were cordoned off to traffic and pedestrians.

(ALAIN JOCARD/AFP/Getty Images)

A man stands near the Louvre museum on February 3, 2017 in Paris after a soldier has shot and gravely injured a man who tried to attack him. 'Serious public security incident under way in Paris in the Louvre area,' the interior ministry tweeted on February 3 as streets in the area were cordoned off to traffic and pedestrians.

(ALAIN JOCARD/AFP/Getty Images)

A French soldier stands guard near the Louvre museum on February 3, 2017 in Paris after a soldier has shot and gravely injured a man who tried to attack him. 'Serious public security incident under way in Paris in the Louvre area,' the interior ministry tweeted on February 3 as streets in the area were cordoned off to traffic and pedestrians.

(ALAIN JOCARD/AFP/Getty Images)

French police officers and soldiers patrol in front of the Louvre museum on February 3, 2017 in Paris after a soldier has shot and gravely injured a man who tried to attack him. 'Serious public security incident under way in Paris in the Louvre area,' the interior ministry tweeted on February 3 as streets in the area were cordoned off to traffic and pedestrians.

(ALAIN JOCARD/AFP/Getty Images)

French police officers patrol near the Louvre museum on February 3, 2017 in Paris after a soldier has shot and gravely injured a man who tried to attack him. 'Serious public security incident under way in Paris in the Louvre area,' the interior ministry tweeted on February 3 as streets in the area were cordoned off to traffic and pedestrians.

(ALAIN JOCARD/AFP/Getty Images)

French police secure the site near the Louvre Pyramid in Paris, France, February 3, 2017 after a French soldier shot and wounded a man armed with a knife after he tried to enter the Louvre museum in central Paris carrying a suitcase, police sources said.

(REUTERS/Christian Hartmann)

French firefighters and police are seen at the site near the Louvre Pyramid in Paris, France, February 3, 2017 after a French soldier shot and wounded a man armed with a knife after he tried to enter the Louvre museum in central Paris carrying a suitcase, police sources said.

(REUTERS/Christian Hartmann)

French police secure the site near the Louvre Pyramid in Paris, France, February 3, 2017 after a French soldier shot and wounded a man armed with a knife after he tried to enter the Louvre museum in central Paris carrying a suitcase, police sources said.

(REUTERS/Christian Hartmann)

French police secure the site near the Louvre Pyramid in Paris, France, February 3, 2017 after a French soldier shot and wounded a man armed with a knife after he tried to enter the Louvre museum in central Paris carrying a suitcase, police sources said.

(REUTERS/Christian Hartmann)

French police secure the site near the Louvre Pyramid in Paris, France, February 3, 2017 after a French soldier shot and wounded a man armed with a knife after he tried to enter the Louvre museum in central Paris carrying a suitcase, police sources said.

(REUTERS/Christian Hartmann)

People stand in front of the Louvre museum on February 3, 2017 in Paris after a soldier has shot and gravely injured a man who tried to attack him. 'Serious public security incident under way in Paris in the Louvre area,' the interior ministry tweeted on February 3 as streets in the area were cordoned off to traffic and pedestrians.

(ALAIN JOCARD/AFP/Getty Images)

French police secure the site near the Louvre Pyramid in Paris, France, February 3, 2017 after a French soldier shot and wounded a man armed with a knife after he tried to enter the Louvre museum in central Paris carrying a suitcase, police sources said.

(REUTERS/Christian Hartmann)

A general view shows the Carrousel du Louvre and the Louvre Pyramid as French police secure the site in Paris, France, February 3, 2017 after a French soldier shot and wounded a man armed with a machete and carrying two bags on his back as he tried to enter the Paris Louvre museum.

(REUTERS/Philippe Wojazer)

French police, soldiers and firefighters are seen in front of the street entrance of the Carrousel du Louvre in Paris, France, February 3, 2017 after a French soldier shot and wounded a man armed with a machete and carrying two bags on his back as he tried to enter the Paris Louvre museum.

(REUTERS/Christian Hartmann)

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The suspect also spoke of wanting to "avenge the Syrian people," the source said, referring to the civil war in that country in which hundreds of thousands of people have been killed and millions displaced.

Hamahmy was shot several times on Friday after attacking soldiers as he cried "Allahu Akbar" in what French President Francois Hollande described as a terrorist attack.

He has been in hospital since the attack and late on Tuesday his police custody was lifted as his health had "greatly deteriorated" during the day, the source said, without elaborating.

France, which is preparing for a presidential election in April and May, remains under a state of emergency following a series of attacks by militant Islamists over the past two years in which more than 230 people have been killed.

(Reporting by Chine Labbe; Writing Mathieu Rosemain and Michel Rose; Editing by Sudip Kar-Gupta and Gareth Jones)

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