PARIS (AP) — Paris prosecutors have opened a counterterrorism investigation after an unidentified assailant attacked police with a hammer outside Notre Dame Cathedral.
French Interior Minister Gerard Collomb says the attacker cried "it's for Syria" as he went after officers patrolling an esplanade in front of the famous landmark.
The Paris prosecutor's office said the investigation was opened Tuesday soon after the attack. The attacker was shot and wounded in the incident in one of France's most popular tourist areas.
Speaking after the attack, Collomb said police found kitchen knives, a hammer and other unsophisticated weapons on the wounded assailant.
It was the latest of several attacks in France targeting security officers. In April, an attacker opened fire on a police van on Paris' Champs Elysees, killing one and gravely wounding two others. The attacker was shot dead by police.
Several hundred people were held inside Notre Dame Cathedral after a man went after officers patrolling outside the Paris landmark.
Kellyn PotVin-Gorman, an American tourist visiting Paris from Colorado, tells The Associated Press she was at the front of the line to enter the cathedral when she saw panicked people running in every direction on Tuesday afternoon.
PotVin-Gorman says she heard three gunshots before seeing the attacker, dressed in a blue jacket and blue jeans, lying on the ground about 30 meters (100 feet) outside the cathedral.
She says many ran toward a nearby subway station, but a crowd also pushed past her to try to get inside the cathedral.
The 49-year-old said she was being held with her husband and about 500 others inside the landmark, where many prayed and the mood is sober. —
Witnesses around Notre Dame Cathedral are describing a dramatic police operation in the tourist-filled site in central Paris.
Lawrence Langner, a 73-year-old American visiting the neighborhood just across the Seine River from the cathedral, told The Associated Press that he suddenly heard a commotion and two detonations like gunshots.
Journalist David Metreau, who said his office overlooks the square, tweeted that there were two blasts that sounded like shots, and posted a photo of a body lying seemingly inert on the ground.
Others posted photos online of what appeared to be the interior of medieval Notre Dame, one of France's most-visited monuments.
Paris police say an operation around Notre Dame Cathedral is over, after an attacker who targeted police with a hammer was shot and injured.
Police spokeswoman Johanna Primevert tells The Associated Press that the intervention is over. She did not provide further details.
Another police official said the attacker surged at police patrolling the scene with a hammer.
Paris police tweeted that one officer was wounded in the attack.
Hundreds of people on the esplanade in front of Notre Dame were evacuated while the operation was underway.
Paris police say an unidentified assailant has attacked a police officer near the Notre Dame Cathedral, and the officer then shot and wounded the attacker.
A police spokesperson told The Associated Press that the officer used his weapon to shoot the attacker in Tuesday's incident. The spokesperson, who was not authorized to be publicly named, said the attacker was being hospitalized.
A police union official, Cedric Michel, said a man armed with a hammer went after the police officer who was patrolling on the esplanade in front of Notre Dame Cathedral. Michel said the attacker was "neutralized" by police.
It is unclear whether the attacker was acting alone.
Paris police say a security operation is underway near Notre Dame Cathedral and are urging passers-by to stay away from the area.
The police department tweeted about the operation on Tuesday afternoon but did not provide any details. A police official would not provide further information.
Large numbers of police cars filled the area on the Ile de Cite island in the River Seine in the center of Paris.
Paris is under high security after a string of Islamic extremist attacks in recent years.