PARIS –An Egyptian man suspected of charging soldiers at Paris’ Louvre museum with a machete was questioned by French investigators Sunday for the first time since the attack.
The Paris prosecutor’s office said the suspect, who allegedly shouted “Allahu akbar!” while rushing toward the soldiers and was shot four times after slightly injuring one, remained silent during the interview and will remain in custody.
The Louvre was closed immediately following the Friday attack, but reopened for the weekend.
French authorities so far have not named the suspect, but confirmed they thought he was Egyptian.
They are being more cautious than their Egyptian counterparts, who have identified the attacker as 28-year-old Abdullah Reda Refaie al-Hamahmy.
Hamahmy’s father spoke out Saturday to say that his son is not a terrorist, but a family man who led a normal life with his wife and infant son.
Reda Refaie al-Hamahmy told The Associated Press late Saturday that he trusts the French judiciary to find out the truth behind his Abdullah’s alleged involvement in the attack.
“If he is convicted, God be with us. But if he is innocent, they owe us an apology,” the father said at the family home in the Nile Delta city of Mansoura.
“He is a very respectable man who never had a problem with anybody, he never had any sort of political views,” he said. “His main concern in his life was his work in the United Arab Emirates,” he said, adding that his son had gone to France on a “work assignment.”
Abdullah has lived in Dubai for the past five years, employed by what his father said was a law firm.
The Paris prosecutor’s office says the attacker was shot after lightly wounding a soldier patrolling an underground mall near the famous Paris museum, but that the injuries are no longer life-threatening.
Ibrahim Youssry, a close friend of Abdullah al-Hamahmy, said his behaviour on the day of the attack did not betray any intention to commit an act of violence.
“Before the attack, he commented on one of our friends’ pictures on Instagram and liked some (other) pictures. He also called his father and asked him what to bring for him from France. All this contradicts the French story,” said Youssry.
Two Egyptian officials said Sunday that local security agencies were continuing to gather information on Abdullah al-Hamahmy to help establish if he was a member of any militant groups or had been radicalized.
“We are trying to determine whether he was a lone wolf, worked with a group or he is innocent,” said one of the two officials, who is employed by the Interior Ministry. Investigators were examining his social media accounts, he added.
“His tweets show a radicalized person. He supports the Daesh and other extremists in Syria,” said the official, using the Arabic acronym for the Islamic State group.
One recent tweet by Abdullah al-Hamahmy defended the Islamic State.
“Why are they sacred of the Islamic State? Because the Islamic State defends its resources, territory, the honour and dignity of Muslims,” he wrote.
The information gathered on Abdullah al-Hamahmy will be shared with French authorities, according to the second official, who is with the Foreign Ministry.
Both officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to brief the media.