Paris Police Shoot, Injure Attacker At Famous Notre Dame Cathedral

Updated | A Paris police officer shot and injured a man who attacked him with a hammer near the city's Notre Dame Cathedral on Tuesday, authorities said.

Police launched a security operation near the site shortly after 4.30 p.m. local time, urging passersby to remain clear of the area, after reports of gunfire and a possible attack at the landmark site. The area in front of the cathedral was closed.

France's counter-terrorism office opened an investigation after the attack, the motive for which remains unclear. Police declared the incident over within an hour and the police officer involved sustained only minor injuries.

The medieval Catholic cathedral is a popular tourist destination and is located on the Île de la Cité in the Seine River. The site was the scene of a terrorism scare in September 2016 when police found a car loaded with cooking gas canisters and bottles of diesel fuel.

On Tuesday, police barricaded tourists inside the church, among them American actor Matthew Currie Holmes, who tweeted the incident in real time.

"We're trapped in Notre-Dame de Paris, something is happening outside. Police sirens can be heard. They are not letting anyone in or out," he tweeted.

He then shared two images, one to say "everyone is safe!" and another showing the crowd with their hands in the air, at the request of police.

Police asking everyone to raise their hands in the church

— Matthew Currie Holmes (MCH) (@mch2k) June 6, 2017

France remains in a state of emergency after a series of deadly attacks by jihadis across the country since January 2015. In November 2015, an Islamic State militant group (ISIS) cell killed 130 people in a rampage through the streets of Paris.

In January 2015 an attack on the offices of the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo and a kosher supermarket left 17 dead. In July 2016, Tunisian national Mohamed Bouhlel drove a lorry into revellers watching the Bastille Day fireworks in the southern city of Nice, killing 86 people.

The incident at Notre Dame comes just three days after the ISIS-claimed vehicle and knife attack on London Bridge and nearby Borough Market that killed seven people.

In April 2017, a man shot and killed a policeman on Paris's Champs-Élysées avenue and injured two of his colleagues in an attack also claimed by ISIS. It came just days before the presidential election that Emmanuel Macron would go on to win. During the French presidential campaign, the independent candidate called for the hiring of 10,000 police officers over five years.

"Any number of people could have been shot on the Champs-Élysées, but the guy chose to fire on a policeman," François Heisbourg, chairman of the International Institute for Strategic Studies Council, who has advised the French government on security, previously told Newsweek.

While police officer killings in France are rare (there were six in 2015, the most recent year for which the French government has published data), many in recent years have involved what the government classified as terrorism.

In January 2015, three of the 17 victims killed in the attacks were police officers. Last June, an assailant fatally stabbed a police commander and his partner, also an officer, in their home outside of Paris, streaming the partner's death on Facebook. ISIS claimed responsibility.

There have also been nonfatal attacks on French law enforcement by extremists, including at the Paris Orly Airport in April 2015 and during the Bastille Day truck ramming in Nice last July. In February, a machete-wielding assailant attempted to stab a French soldier outside of the Louvre Museum in Paris.

French politicians have tried to use such incidents to expand authority for French police. "The uniform no longer protects. On the contrary, it is a target that exposes those who wear it," Eric Ciotti, then a leader in France's since-dissolved Union for a Popular Movement party, said before France's National Assembly in 2015. After the Champs-Élysées attack in April, Marine Le Pen, then running for French president, said, "Our police officers are attacked because they are symbols of the state."

This article has been updated to include new details about the attack outside of Notre Dame and about the recent history of attacks on French law enforcement officers.