World

Friend describes suspect in Louvre Museum attack as 'peaceful and respectful'

A friend of the man accused of attacking French soldiers guarding Paris' Louvre museum said on Sunday that Abdullah Reda Refaie al-Hamahmy was always "peaceful and respectful."

Egypt confirms identity of Paris machete suspect as 28-year-old Abdullah Reda Refaie al-Hamahmy

Police officers stand guard near the Louvre on Friday after a soldier patrolling at the museum shot and seriously injured a machete-wielding man. (Eric Feferberg/AFP/Getty Images)

A friend of the man accused of attacking French soldiers guarding Paris' Louvre museum said on Sunday that Abdullah Reda Refaie al-Hamahmy was always "peaceful and respectful."

Ibrahim Youssry, who was al-Hamahmy's neighbour in Mansoura, Egypt, said he feels reassured that the 28-year-old is still alive but finds it hard to believe that al-Hamahmy could carry out such an attack.

"While I was watching TV, I received a message from a friend on my Facebook messenger saying 'look what's written about our friend Hamahmy (Abdullah Reda Refaie al-Hamahmy).' I opened the link and I read a story about an attack in the Louvre. I was shocked and couldn't believe it. Then I started searching the internet and found that it's big news. We were still not able to believe it because Abdullah was always peaceful, respectable and never harmed anyone."

French police secure the site near the Louvre Pyramid in Paris after the attack, involving a man police said was armed with two machetes. (Christian Hartmann/Reuters)

Al-Hamahmy was shot four times after injuring a soldier patrolling the Louvre's nearby underground mall. On Saturday, the suspect's injuries were no longer life-threatening, the Paris prosecutor's office said.

French President François Hollande said there is "no doubt" the suspect's actions were a terror attack.

It's believed Al-Hamahmy, who is Egyptian, was living in the United Arab Emirates and came to Paris on Jan. 26 on a tourist visa.

Busy on social media

"When he was in France he checked in [on Facebook] with his location and I don't think that someone intending to do such an act would share his location," Youssry said.

"Before the attack he commented on one of our friend's pictures on Instagram and liked some pictures, and also he called his father and asked him what to bring him from France, so this all contradicts the French story," he said.

The Louvre reopened to the public on Saturday, less than 24 hours after a machete-wielding assailant shouting "Allahu akbar!" attacked French soldiers guarding the museum and was shot by them.

The body of a man lies on the floor as two soldiers guard him at the Louvre on Friday. (Associated Press)

An Egyptian Interior Ministry official confirmed the suspect's name and his age as 28, not 29 as widely reported earlier.

Prosecutor François Molins said the suspect bought two military machetes at a gun store in Paris and paid 1,700 euros for a one-week stay at a Paris apartment in the chic 8th arrondissement, near the Champs-Élysées Avenue.

On the Twitter account of an "Abdallah El-Hamahmy," a tweet was posted about a trip from Dubai to Paris on Jan. 26. In the profile photo, Hamahmy is seen smiling and leaning against a wall in a blue-and-white sports jacket.

In another tweet in Arabic written shortly before the Louvre attack, Hamahmy posted an angry tirade: "No negotiation, no compromise, no letting up, certainly no climb down, relentless war."

A police officer stands guard near the Carrousel du Louvre. (Ian Langsdon/EPA)

In an interview Saturday on the Dubai-based news channel al-Hadath, Hamahmy's father, Reda Refae al-Hamahmy, said he was shocked to learn of his son's alleged involvement in the attack and denied he was a radical or belonged to any militant groups.

"This is all a scenario made up by the French government to justify the soldiers opening fire," he added. "He is a very normal young man."

The father said Hamahmy is married with a seven-month-old child and told them he intended to tour the sights in Paris before leaving France. He sent his father a photo of himself with the Eiffel Tower in the background shortly before the clash at the Louvre.