Pic: Le Salon Beige
French police have cited the mental health of a man who drew a knife and shouted the Islamist war-cry “Allah Akhbar” at the Eiffel Tower Saturday night after the apparently foiled attack led to the tourist attraction being evacuated.A 19-year-old male pulled a knife during an attempt to breach security at the base of the tower, and as he forced his way past security guards shouted “Allah Akhbar”, causing an evacuation of the popular landmark. French newspaper Le Figaro reports the suspect, who is a French citizen of Mauritanian origin, was ordered to put the knife down by soldiers who were present at the scene, and that he immediately complied and offered no resistance as he was arrested.
Although police initially opened an investigation into terrorism and attempted murder after the foiled attack, a police source subsequently said of the suspect: “This is the profile of someone who has a psychiatric history and who came out of a psychiatric [hospital] at the end of July”.
A source quoted by the newspaper said of the incident: “A man crossed the first fence by jostling a security guard with a strike to the shoulder and then pulled out a knife shouting ‘Allah Akbar’.
“Sentinel Operation soldiers then ordered him to put his knife on the ground, he put it down without resistance and was immediately arrested”.
There were no reported injuries.
The soldiers who took part in the confrontation were members of Operation Sentinel, the ongoing military deployment to the French mainland of, at times, up to 100,000 soldiers to keep the peace and protect key targets including tourist attractions and schools from terrorist attack.
Troops on the deployment have been on the blurred front line in Paris and other French cities on a number of occasions in the past year, including in February when soldiers opened fire on an Egyptian national at the Louvre museum after he pulled a machete out of a rucksack and shouted “Allah Akhbar”.
In a separate incident in March, a man was shot dead by Sentinel troops at Paris airport after he grabbed a female soldier’s gun and took her hostage.
Conscious of the significant terror target the Eiffel Tower presents, the French government announced in February they would be erecting an eight-foot tall bulletproof glass wall around the landmark to protect it. The structure is designed to prevent would-be terrorists from approaching the Tower from any direction, but to do so without “distorting” the historic character of the area, said a spokesman at the time.