France opens counter-terrorism probe into knife-wielding man at Eiffel Tower

PARIS, Aug 6 (Reuters) - French prosecutors have opened a counter-terrorism investigation after a man with a knife tried to force his way in to Paris' Eiffel Tower late on Saturday, a judicial source said.

The incident at the world-famous tourist site was initially treated as a criminal matter, but was later designated a counter-terrorism case because of the suspect's statements to police and his apparent radicalisation, the source said.

The company that operates the Eiffel Tower said in a statement early on Sunday that a man with a knife tried to force his way through a security check at around 2130 GMT on Saturday before being quickly stopped.

No one was injured, the operator said, adding that the tower was evacuated by police to check the entire site.

Eiffel Tower through the years
See Gallery
Eiffel Tower through the years
(Original Caption) 3/26/1888-Paris, France: Eiffel Tower during construction, March 26, 1888. When the superstructure reached the first level and 4 legs were united by massive horizontal girders. Eiffel's worst worries were over and his worst critics were silenced. Photograph taken March 26, 1888. First platform and rigid base gave reasonable guarantee that there was sufficient support for fourteen million pound tower.
FRANCE : General view showing the framework, taken from the first storey. Gustave Eiffel (1832-1923) designed the world-famous tower, built for the International Exhibition of Paris in 1889, commemorating the centenary of the French Revolution. The tower consists of four curved iron piers connected by a lattice of girders. Construction started in January 1887 and was complete on 31 March 1889. It was further enlarged for the 1937 exhibition. Illustration from Eiffel's book on the construction of the Eiffel Tower, 'La Tour de Trois Cents Metres' ('The Tower of Three Hundred Metres'), published in Paris in 1900. (Photo by SSPL/Getty Images)
FRANCE - DECEMBER 07: Eiffel Tower Under Construction In Paris On December 7Th 1887 (Photo by Keystone-France/Gamma-Keystone via Getty Images)
The Eiffel tower under construction covering the period The construction of the Eiffel Tower - 14th August 1888 to 14th September 1888. The first platform is completed and the second is under construction. (Photo by Henry Guttmann/Getty Images)
One of the steel struts of the Eiffel Tower at the start of its construction in Paris, 18th July 1887. (Photo by FPG/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
The Eiffel Tower was built by Gustave Eiffel for the International Exhibition of Paris in 1889 to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the start of the French Revolution, Paris, France, late 1880s. (Photo by Underwood Archives/Getty Images)
Postcard with the title 'La Grande Roule at la Tour Eiffel,' showing a view of Paris with the Eiffel Tower and La Grande Roule Ferris Wheel. Paris, France. Date unknown. (Photo by Fotosearch/Getty Images)
View of the Eiffel Tower as it towers above the Seine River, about the time of the Paris International Exposition (Exposition Universelle), Paris, France, 1899. (Photo by Stock Montage/Getty Images)
FRANCE - NOVEMBER 27: 18Th Repainting Session For The Eiffel Tower On November 27Th, 2001 In Paris, France. (Photo by William STEVENS/Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images)
Aerial view of Paris with the Eiffel Tower and the Cross of Lorraine (upper right), the Gaullist emblem, during a ceremony, November 9, to mark the 25th anniversary of the death of General Charles de Gaulle
French soldiers armed with assault rifles patrol near the Eiffel tower, September 9. 1,800 troops started to be deployed, September 8, to guard key sites in Paris and elsewhere in France, after a series of terrorist bomb blasts have left seven people dead and more than 100 wounded
Gondolas from a giant ferris wheel frame the Eiffel Tower, December 21. The French capital prepares for the millennium celebrations with eleven ferris wheels on the Champs Elysees featuring acrobats and dancers and a huge midnight firework display on the Eiffel Tower. **DIGITAL IMAGE**
Fireworks burst from the Eiffel Tower as part of festivities in the French capital to mark the new millennium, January 1. Over a million revelers are expected to celebrate the year 2000 on the boulevards of Paris tonight. JES/
Thousands of new bulbs made the enduring symbol of the City of Light twinkle again in Paris June 21, 2003, almost two years after wear-and-tear darkened the Eiffel Tower's lighting system. The 20,000 new lights on the tower recreate a glittering display originally meant to show off one of the world's most visited tourist sites on the night of the Millennium. The tower will be engulfed in twinkling lights for 10 minutes at the start of every hour from dusk until one or two each morning for the next decade. REUTERS/Philippe Wojazer
People dance in front of the Eiffel tower as they attend a concert to celebrate a music festival in Paris June 21, 2003. REUTERS/Philippe Wojazer PW/
A climber installs flashing lights installed on the Eiffel tower, April 24, 2003. A 30-strong team of mountaineer technicians has braved the wind and the rain since the begining of the year to clamber up and fix, at 80-centimetre (30-inch) intervals, 20.000 flashing lights on the monument. Encouraged by the success of the millennium show, the Eiffel tower will sparkle hourly for 10 minutes, from nightfall until after midnight. REUTERS/Philippe Wojazer PP03040065 PW/
Members of the special police force RAID ( Research, assistance, intervention and deterrence) abseil down the Eiffel tower during an exercise in Paris October 8, 2005. The unit took part in a mock-intervention exercise to mark its 20th anniversary. REUTERS/Charles Platiau
Buddhist monk Thong Tawan from France's Thai community holds prayers at a commemorative ceremony at Trocadero in Paris. Buddhist monk Thong Tawan from France's Thai community holds prayers at a commemorative ceremony, marking the sixth-month anniversary of the December 26, 2004 tsunami, at Trocadero in Paris June 26, 2005. The Eiffel Tower is seen at the background. Frustrated, living in tents and jobless, survivors of last December's tsunami that killed up to 232,000 people around the Indian Ocean are struggling to rebuild six months after one of history's worst natural calamities. In the countries most affected - Indonesia, Sri Lanka, India and Thailand - survivors gripe that reconstruction of homes, the rebuilding of schools and the creation of work has barely begun. Emergency relief is still being distributed, with the World Food Programme feeding nearly two million people in the region. REUTERS/Mal Langsdon
Spain's Rafael Nadal poses with the championship trophy in front of the Eiffel tower, one day after winning the French Open tennis tournament final, in Paris June 11, 2007. REUTERS/Benoit Tessier (FRANCE)
Spectators gather in front of the Eiffel tower during New Year celebrations January 1, 2007. REUTERS/Charles Platiau (FRANCE)
General view of the Eiffel Tower, illuminated at night in Paris March 27, 2007. REUTERS/Heinz-Peter Bader (FRANCE)
Rowers pass the Eiffel Tower on their boats in Paris, September 26, 2010. About 1000 rowers and 300 boats took part in the rowing event to cross Paris on the Seine river. REUTERS/Benoit Tessier (FRANCE - Tags: CITYSCAPE SPORT ROWING)
Children enjoy the snow in front the Eiffel Tower in Paris December 8, 2010 as winter weather and sub-freezing temperatures continue in northern France. REUTERS/Philippe Wojazer (FRANCE - Tags: ENVIRONMENT TRAVEL)
A man uses cross-country skis to make his way across the snow-covered Champs de Mars near the Eiffel Tower in Paris January 20, 2013. Several inches of snow fell in the French capital halting some transportation and closing some public parks. REUTERS/John Schults (FRANCE - Tags: ENVIRONMENT TRAVEL)
The Eiffel Tower is seen in silhouette at sunset over the Seine River in Paris, February 11, 2013. REUTERS/Philippe Wojazer (FRANCE - Tags: TRAVEL SOCIETY)
A general view of the Eiffel tower and La Defense business district skyline in the background as warm and sunny weather continues in France, March 10, 2014. REUTERS/Jacky Naegelen (FRANCE CITYSCAPE - Tags: TRAVEL CITYSCAPE ENVIRONMENT)
Participants take part in the Color Run near the Eiffel Tower in Paris April 19, 2015. The Color Run is a five-kilometre race, held in cities across the U.S. and also worldwide, with the aim of promoting healthy living and to benefit a charity that organizers choose in each of the cities that the run visits. Participants are doused from head to toe in different colors at each kilometre. REUTERS/Benoit Tessier
The Eiffel Tower that is illuminated in memory of the victims of the gay nightclub mass shooting in Orlando, in Paris, France, June 13, 2016. REUTERS/Gonzalo Fuentes
Technician Pascal Duteil changes one of the sodium golden light bulbs on the Eiffel tower in Paris, France, May 5, 2015. A campaign to change and clean the 425 golden light bulbs starts today and is done every four years. REUTERS/Philippe Wojazer FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NOT FOR SALE FOR MARKETING OR ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS
A giant soccer ball hangs from the Eiffel Tower during the France v Romania EURO 2016 Group A soccer match, in Paris, France, June 10, 2016. REUTERS/Gonzalo Fuentes TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
Tourists enjoy a long holiday weekend on the lawns of the Champ de Mars near the Eiffel Tower in Paris, France, May 24, 2015. REUTERS/Mal Langsdon
A picture shows the Eiffel Tower lit in the colours of the Olympic flag during the launch of the international campaign for the Paris bid to host the 2024 Olympic Games, in Paris, France, February 3, 2017. REUTERS/Benoit Tessier TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
A general view shows the illuminated Eiffel Tower (C), the Hotel des Invalides (R) and rooftops at night in Paris, France, November 28, 2016. REUTERS/Charles Platiau TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
The Eiffel Tower is lit with the blue, white and red colours of the French flag in Paris, France, November 16, 2015, to pay tribute to the victims of a series of deadly attacks on Friday in the French capital. REUTERS/Benoit Tessier
Workers are seen in silhouette, along with the Eiffel Tower, as they construct scaffolding on the Place de la Concorde as the sun sets on an autumn day in Paris, France, October 13, 2015. REUTERS/Philippe Wojazer TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
The sun shines through tree leaves near the Eiffel Tower on a warm autumn day in Paris, France, October 3, 2015. REUTERS/Regis Duvignau TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
silhouette of eiffel tower in Paris with sunset
Eiffel Tower in Paris France photographed from the top of the Arc de Triompe.

A source close to the investigation said the suspect, a French national born in Mauritania in 1998, had been in a psychiatric hospital for several months and was granted temporary permission to leave care from Aug. 4 to Aug. 6.

During questioning by police, the man stated he had wanted to carry out an attack against a soldier and was in contact with a member of militant group Islamic State who encouraged him to act, the source said.

After pushing his way past a security guard at the entrance to the Eiffel Tower, the man approached soldiers patrolling at the site and, holding a blade, shouted 'Allahu Akbar' (God is great), the source said.

But he complied when the soldiers told him to put down his weapon and offered no resistance when arrested, the source added.

France's Interior Minister said in a newspaper interview published on Sunday that the threat of militant attacks was "very high," citing two incidents this year targeting police on Paris' Champs Elysees.

France has been subject to state of emergency legislation, giving police extended powers, since November 2015 attacks that killed 130 people in and around Paris.

Over 100 other people have been killed in other Islamist attacks in France in the past two-and-a-half years. (Reporting by Gus Trompiz; Editing by Catherine Evans and Adrian Croft)

Read Full Story

From Our Partners