A suspected terrorist who attacked soldiers guarding Le Louvre with a machete has denied receiving orders from Isis, claiming he acted alone despite a series of Twitter messages hinting at sympathy for the group.
Abdallah el-Hamahmy remains in hospital after being shot several times during last Friday’s assault and initially refused to cooperate with French investigators.
But he has now broken his silence, sources told AFP, claiming he “acted of his own will” and intended only to deface works of art at the famed gallery as a symbolic attack on France.
But investigators believe he has a “certain sympathy for the ideas of Isis,“ the source said, following the discovery of a slew of social media posts from the minutes leading up to the assault.
El-Hamahmy was armed with two machetes purchased from a shop in Paris when he launched his attack, shouting “Allahu akbar”, meaning “God is great” in Arabic.
Officials said a group of four soldiers guarding the entrance to the art gallery and Carrousel du Louvre shopping centre had refused him entry with two backpacks.
One of the troops received a wound to his scalp, while el-Hamahmy was shot at least four times, with police later finding spray cans of paint in his rucksack.
The Egyptian sales manager entered France legally on 26 January using a tourist visa from Dubai, where he lives and works, and was renting an expensive apartment near the Champs-Elysees.
His family in Egypt insist they saw no sign of radicalisation and have accused French authorities of seeking to justify their shooting with false allegations.
But a Twitter account believed to belong to el-Hamahmy, which has since been suspended by the social network, expresses support for an “Islamic state” shortly before the attack.
A series of tweets posted in Arabic between 9.27am and 9.34am local time, minutes before the assault was launched, call for people to “fight in the cause of Allah and kill”.
”In the name of Allah the merciful... for our mujahedeen brothers in Syria and across the world,“ one tweet reads.
“Why are they afraid of the creation of an Islamic state?” another post asks. “Because the state of Islam defends its resources and the honour of Muslims...they are struggling for the sake of God and do not fear anybody.”
The messages did not refer to Isis by its Arabic acronym, Daesh, but used the phrase “Dawlat al-Islam”, which is commonly used to refer to the group’s territories by its supporters.
The only tweet in English took aim at Donald Trump, calling the US President “Donald Duck”.
The tirade ended with a message reading: “No negotiation, no compromise, no letting up, certainly no climb down, relentless war.”
A tour guide told Le Parisien el-Hamahmy had visited Le Louvre five days before his attack, spending three hours inside the world’s most visited museum.
“I recognised him after seeing his face in the media,” the man said, adding that el-Hamahmy had used his real name and entered through the same staircase where he was shot.
“I clearly remember asking him where he came from. He replied that he was an Egyptian…he seemed very interested in the visit, especially by the department of Egyptian antiquities.”
Egyptian officials said local security agencies were gathering information on el-Hamahmy to help establish if he was a member of any militant groups or had been radicalised.
Prosecutors in Paris said they would ask investigating judges to file preliminary charges of “attempted terrorist murders” and “terrorist criminal conspiracy” once his medical condition has improved.
No group has claimed responsibility for the attack, which French authorities are treating as terror-related.
Register for free to continue reading
Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism
By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists
Already have an account? sign in
Join our new commenting forum
Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies