Louvre Attack Keeps Violence in Spotlight in French Campaign

Updated on
  • Soldier shoots knife-wielding attacker who cried ‘Allah Akbar’
  • Trump says attack shows U.S. must ‘get smart’ in Tweet

French Soldier Fires on Attacker at Paris's Louvre Museum

An attack at Paris’s Louvre museum Friday ensured that terrorism and security will remain front and center of a roller coaster presidential election that has brought the populist National Front closer than ever to power in France.

A large section of central Paris was cordoned off after a soldier fired five shots at an assailant who was armed with a machete and crying “Allah Akbar,” which means “God is great” in Arabic. The attacker is alive and has been taken into custody and the incident appears to be over without fatalities.

Security outside the Louvre, Feb. 3.

Source: Ministere de l’Interieur/Sipa via AP Photos

The episode is a reminder of the multiple deadly attacks that killed more than 200 people in France in just over two years and may feed a sense of insecurity that has helped Marine Le Pen -- the National Front’s anti-immigrant, law-and-order candidate -- move into the lead in polls for the first round of the presidential election. Still, those same surveys suggest she’d lose heavily in the run-off on May 7 no matter whom she faces.

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With electoral upsets triggering the departure of the U.K. from the European Union and the arrival of Donald Trump in the White House during the past year, investors remain cautious.

The additional yield demanded to hold French 10-year bonds rather than similarly dated German bunds rose to a three-year high of 64 basis points after the incident, even as other euro-area sovereigns have remained stable.

Trump himself weighed in.

“A new radical Islamic terrorist has just attacked in Louvre Museum in Paris,” he said. “Tourists were locked down. France on edge again. GET SMART U.S.”

The attacker, who was shot in the stomach area by soldiers he attacked with machetes in both hands at Paris’s Louvre museum today, is a 29-year-old Egyptian unknown to French intelligence services, Paris Prosecutor Francois Molins said in a press conference in Paris. The attacker, currently in a life-threatening condition, arrived in Paris Jan. 26 from Dubai, Molins said.

Terrorism is the No. 1 concern for most French voters, according to an Elabe poll published in November. About 46 percent of respondents cited the threat of further attacks as an important issue, compared with 40 percent worried about unemployment and 35 percent focused on immigration.

The National Front “can make the most hay” with terrorist incidents “because it’s a law and order philosophy that the party is pursuing,” Moritz Kraemer, chief sovereign ratings officer at Standard & Poor’s said on Bloomberg Television.

Candidates React

The National Front didn’t hesitate to jump on the issue on Friday.

“The Islamist threat struck again at the heart of Paris,” Florian Philippot, one of Le Pen’s top lieutenants, said on Twitter. “Everything remains to be done.”

Republican candidate Francois Fillon, independent Emmanuel Macron and Socialist nominee Benoit Hamon also weighed in.

“The terrorist threat hasn’t receded in our country, it is everywhere,” Fillon said. “Happily our security system was effective.”

Macron, who earlier this week said that the government’s current emergency powers cannot be a long term solution to the terrorist threat, paid tribute to the soldiers and police who took on the attacker. Hamon said the incident shows “we can’t let our guard down.”

Le Pen currently leads in polling for the first round on April 23 with about 25 percent while Macron and Fillon are on 20 percent, according to Ifop’s latest daily tracking poll. Macron, a former economy minister under President Francois Hollande, and former Prime Minister Fillon would both beat Le Pen in a run off, according to a separate poll this week by Elabe.