At least two people have been wounded in a knife attack near the former offices of satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo.
Police are treating as the incident on Friday as a “terrorism” attack. France’s National Anti-Terrorist Prosecutor’s Office (PNAT) has taken over the investigation.
The violence comes three weeks after a trial began in Paris over the assault on Charlie Hebdo staff in 2015, which killed 12 people.
French Prime Minister Jean Castex said: “This attack happened in a symbolic place at the same time as the trial of the attacks against Charlie Hebdo is under way”.
Commenting on Friday’s victims, Castex said: “Their days are not in danger, thank God.”
Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo, who visited the site with Castex and Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin, tweeted: “I condemn in the strongest possible terms the despicable terrorist attack that took place in front of Charlie Hebdo’s former premises. I would like to offer my full support to the victims, their families and colleagues. Thank you to the forces of law and order and to the rescue services mobilised on the scene.”
The Paris Prosecutor’s Office said the main suspect, who is 18 years old, had been arrested. A second, a 33-year-old man, was also arrested.
Paul Moreira, journalist at Premiere Lignes, a production company which is in the same building as the former offices of Charlie Hebdo, said he did not believe the suspect “came here by chance”.
“Everything happened in the street. A guy with a kind of butcher’s knife threw himself at a young woman who was in front of the building entrance, then at a boy who was also in front of the building smoking a cigarette,” Moreira told France Info.
Another witness told Europe 1 radio: “I was in my office. I heard screams in the road. I looked out of the window and saw a woman who was lying on the floor and had taken a whack in the face from what was possibly a machete … I saw a second neighbour on the floor and I went to help.”
Al Jazeera’s Natacha Butler, reporting from Paris, said: “The interior minister and the prime minister both called off engagements and were rushed to a crisis meeting to discuss the situation. We heard from an eyewitness who talked about hearing screams from the streets … and saw a woman with a wound in her head.”
Police initially announced four people were wounded, but later confirmed there were two victims.
Immediately after the attack, schools were placed under lockdown, with parents told not to pick up their children.
Toute l'équipe de Charlie apporte son soutien et sa solidarité à ses anciens voisins et confrères @PLTVfilms et aux personnes touchées par cette odieuse attaque.
— Charlie Hebdo (@Charlie_Hebdo_) September 25, 2020
Manuel Valls, former prime minister under Francois Hollande, tweeted: “My emotion following the stabbing attack near the former premises of Charlie Hebdo. Feeling of reliving a nightmare. My support and solidarity with the wounded and their loved ones. Waiting for the details of the investigation more than ever #JeSuisToujoursCharlie (I am always Charlie).”
At the trial regarding the 2015 attack, the court has heard the fighters had sought to avenge the Prophet Mohammed, nearly 10 years after the weekly published cartoons mocking him.
Fourteen people with suspected links to the homegrown fighters behind the attack are on trial.
The magazine moved offices after the 2015 tragedy.
With reporting from Rebecca Rosman in Paris.