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A man armed with a knife killed a German tourist and wounded two other people near the Eiffel Tower in Paris on Saturday evening in what French authorities said was being investigated as a terrorist attack.
A 26-year-old French man arrested over the attack told police he could no longer stand seeing Muslims die in Gaza and elsewhere, interior minister Gérald Darmanin said. Witnesses reported hearing the assailant shout “Allahu Akbar” during the assault, Darmanin added.
The man, who was known to have psychiatric problems, had previously been convicted of planning an attack and was released in 2020, Darmanin said.
The suspect first attacked a couple near the Eiffel Tower by the Bir-Hakeim bridge, fatally injuring the man. He then crossed the Seine river and assaulted two other people, including with a hammer, before being struck with a Taser stun gun and stopped by police, according to the minister’s account.
“He told police who had just arrested him that he could no longer bear . . . to see Muslims die, in Afghanistan and in Palestine,” Darmanin told reporters.
Anti-terrorism prosecutors have opened an investigation, French President Emmanuel Macron said in a statement.
“I’m addressing all my condolences to the family and loved one of the German national who died . . . in the terror attack in Paris,” Macron said on X. The president was in Qatar on Saturday night, where he is pursuing talks to renew a truce in the Israel-Hamas war and try to pursue a longer-term ceasefire.
France has been on high alert since raising its security threshold in October when a knifeman of Chechen origin killed a teacher in a school in northern France, an attack condemned by Macron at the time as “barbaric Islamist terrorism”.
The government has warned that the war between Israel and Hamas could encourage radicalised individuals in France to carry out attacks.
Hundreds of antisemitic incidents have also been registered by police in France since the start of the war. The forces have been on high alert to protect the country’s Jewish community, the largest in Europe. In October the Versailles palace and several airports were evacuated following bomb threats.
Darmanin confirmed that the attacker, who was born in the wealthy Parisian suburb of Neuilly-sur-Seine, was on a police watch list as well as having been previously convicted.
The wife of the German victim was in shock but had not been injured, Darmanin said. The German couple were young and of Filipino origin, officials said.
Germany’s foreign minister Annalena Baerbock condemned the attack. “Hate and terror have no place in Europe,” she said on social media site X.
A second person wounded in the hammer attack was also a tourist in Paris, while the third injured person was a French man, Darmanin added. The UK Foreign Office said it was supporting a British man who was injured.
The attack by the banks of the Seine river, in an area often visited by tourists for views of the city at night, comes less than a year before the Olympic Games next summer in Paris, a major security challenge.
“Just ahead of the Olympic Games it’s a strong symbol . . . to attack Paris, the French capital, and the Eiffel Tower,” said Jérémy Redler, mayor of the 16th arrondissement where the later part of the attacks took place, on BFM TV.
The attack has already drawn criticism from opponents of Macron, including far-right politician Jordan Bardella. “The suspect . . . was not only on a radicalisation watchlist, but had also been in prison,” Bardella told reporters on Sunday. “We need more than just words.”