Man Arrested at Eiffel Tower in Apparent Terror Incident; 7th Terror Event in France This Year
French anti-terrorism police are investigating an incident at the Eiffel Tower in Paris overnight. A man brandishing a knife and shouting "Allah akhbar" crashed through a security barrier, reportedly intending to kill a soldier. The iconic Eiffel Tower was then evacuated by police. The arrested suspect told investigators that he had been in contact with a member of ISIS who encouraged the attack. This marks the seventh terror incident in France this year.
The still-unnamed Mauritanian-born suspect was convicted in December of glorifying terrorism and making threats, but was given a suspended sentence.
Meanwhile, French national security officials have increased the number of suspects on their terror watch list from 16,000 six months ago to 18,500 today.
Regarding last night's incident at the Eiffel Tower, Agence France-Presse reports:
A man arrested at the Eiffel Tower after brandishing a knife in front of tourists and security forces has told investigators he wanted to kill a soldier, sources close to the case told AFP on Sunday.
The intruder, who is aged 18 and has a history of psychological problems, was arrested late on Saturday at the Paris monument after bursting past security and shouting "Allahu Akbar" ("God is Greatest").
Armed soldiers who are permanently stationed at the Eiffel Tower surrounded him and ordered him to drop his weapon, which he did without attacking anyone, one security source said, asking not to be named.
In custody, he said he wanted to commit "an attack against a soldier and had been in contact with a member of the jihadist group Islamic State who encouraged him to take action," a separate source told AFP.
This marks the seventh terrorist incident in France this year:
February 3 (Paris - Louvre): A 29-year old Egyptian man, Abdullah Reda al-Hamamy, attacked police outside the Louvre Museum with a machete while shouting "Allah akhbar." A police officer was wounded in the attack, and al-Hamamy was shot in the stomach and arrested. He told investigators he intended to deface some of the museum's pieces with spray paint he had brought. Prior to the attack he posted a message on his Twitter account referring to ISIS and declaring: "In the name of Allah... for our brothers in Syria and fighters across the world." Al-Hamamy had entered France from Dubai on a tourist visa.
March 18 (Paris - Orly Airport): Ziyed Ben Belgacem, a 39-year-old French-born Muslim of North African descent, attacked a three-man team of Air Force soldiers at Orly Airport. Holding a gun to the head of one officer and attempting to take her automatic rifle while shouting, "I am here to die for ISIS," Belgacem was shot and killed by another member of the team. He had shot and wounded another police officer in Garges-lès-Gonesse earlier that day. He was previously known to authorities for being radicalized and was on a police watch list.
April 4 (Vaucouleurs): Sarah Lucy Halimi, a 66-year-old doctor and Orthodox Jew, was stabbed while in her bed, savagely beaten, and then thrown over her third-floor balcony by Kobili Traore, a 27-year-old African Muslim neighbor, while he shouted "Allah Akhbar" and recited Koranic verses. During a police interview, the suspect said that the Koran commanded him to kill her. Jewish organizations have accused French authorities of covering up the nature of the attack, and last month French President Emmanuel Macron said during Holocaust remembrance ceremonies that there should be "clarity" by judicial authorities about the attack.
April 20 (Paris - Champs-Elysées): Police patrolling the Champs-Elysées shopping district in the heart of Paris were shot at by Karim Cheurfi with an AK-47; one of the officers was killed. Two other national police officers and a German tourist were severely injured. After Cheurfi had been shot and killed by police, a note praising ISIS was found on his body. He had previously been convicted and served ten years in prison for attempting to kill two police officers. Cheurfi had been placed on a police "radicalization and terror prevention alert list" after the Charlie Hebdo massacre, and he had been arrested in February 2017 for threatening police -- but he was never charged.
June 6 (Paris - Notre Dame Cathedral): A police officer standing in the square in front of Notre Dame Cathedral was attacked by a 40-year-old Algerian PhD student, Farid Ikken, as he was shouting: "This is for Syria." After he had been shot by other police officers, he claimed to be a soldier of the Islamic State. A search of his home revealed a tape of him pledging allegiance to ISIS. Hundreds of visitors inside the cathedral were held inside the cathedral on lockdown for more than two hours.
June 19 (Paris - Champs-Elysées): Police were targeted again on the Champs-Elysées by 31-year-old Djaziri Adam Lotfi, who rammed his car into into a police vehicle, prompting the car to burst into flames. Lotfi was shot and killed by police. A search of his vehicle revealed an AK-47, handguns, a gas canister, and explosives. Lotfi was already on the "fiche-S" terrorist watch list and a known member of a "radical Islamist movement." On the day of the attack, he had mailed claims of responsibility, while pledging allegiance to the Islamic State.