An attacker at Paris Notre Dame cathedral carrying an Algerian student card shouted “this is for Syria” when he attacked a police officer with a hammer, French interior minister Gerard Collomb said on Tuesday.
"A man came behind these police officers and, armed with a hammer, started hitting one of them. His colleagues reacted with composure...and fired," Collomb told reporters near the cathedral in central Paris.
Collomb added that the injured attacked was being treated in hospital and seemed to have acted alone.
The incident happened around 4:30 p.m. Large numbers of police cars filled the area on the Ile de Cite island in the Seine River in the center of Paris as authorities urged people to stay away from the area.
Witnesses described a dramatic police operation in the tourist-filled area.
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 that fronts Notre Dame, tweeted that there were two blasts that sounded like shots. He 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.
Police said the operation was over about an hour after it started.
Paris remains under high security after a string of Islamic extremist attacks in recent years, including several targeting police officers and security personnel.
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.
The incident recalled two recent attacks on soldiers providing security at prominent locations around Paris, one at the Louvre museum in February and one at Orly airport in March.