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Louvre attack suspect refuses to speak to investigators

Egyptian was shot several times during what French President Francois Hollande described as terrorist attack
Reda Abdullah al-Hamahmy, father of suspect in attack on soldiers at Paris's Louvre museum, holds picture of his son during interview in Egypt (Reuters)

The machete-wielding suspect who was shot by a soldier outside France's Louvre museum refused to speak to police on Sunday after being formally placed into custody at a hospital, a source at the Paris prosecutor's office said.

Abdullah Reda al-Hamahmy, an Egyptian, was shot several times on Friday after attacking soldiers in what French President Francois Hollande described as a terrorist attack.

Investigators decided to question him at his hospital bed after his condition improved. "The first interview took place this morning, but it turned out to be a short one. For the moment, he refuses to talk to investigators," the source at the prosecutor's office said.

Hamahmy's father told Reuters it was "nonsense" to suggest his son was a terrorist, saying that the youngest of his four children was a law graduate who had been working in the United Arab Emirates for about five years and was in Paris on business.

The 29-year-old arrived in France on 26 January after obtaining a tourist visa in Dubai. Egyptian security officials have not said whether he had any known links to militant groups.

Hours before the Louvre attack, an entry on Hamahmy's Twitter account was posted reading: "Why are they afraid of the establishment of an Islamic state? Because the country of Islam will defend its resources and territory and the honour and dignity of Muslims."

Another read: "In the name of Allah... for our brothers in Syria and fighters across the world," before referring to the Islamic State group in another tweet a minute later.

Reuters could not independently verify the authenticity of the tweet and the account has since been shut down.

The incident underlined the militant threat facing France, which is still under a state of emergency as presidential elections loom following a series of attacks over the past two years that have killed more than 230 people.

Hamahmy's father, Reda Abdullah al-Hamahmy, in an interview on Saturday accused French officials of fabricating the allegations against his son to excuse the force used to stop him.

Asked if his son had shown militant tendencies, the retired police major general said: "If he had I would have thrown him out of the house."

Speaking to AFP in Cairo on Saturday, Hamahmy said there were no signs his son had been radicalised.

"He went on a company trip and when it was over visited the museum. He was supposed to leave on Saturday," he told AFP, saying his son was married and his pregnant wife was currently staying in Saudi Arabia with their seven-month-old son.

French investigators are hunting for clues to establish whether he acted alone, on impulse, or on orders from someone. He attacked troops checking bags near the museum's shopping mall with a machete in each hand, wounding one soldier.

Investigators say the attacker, who was carrying two machetes and wearing a black T-shirt with a skull design, lunged at four soldiers shouting "Allahu Akbar" (God is greatest).

Hamahmy's father said he last spoke to his son a few hours before the attack and that they had discussed what colour hat Hamahmy should buy to protect him against the cold weather of Paris.

He said he heard the news of the Louvre incident via Facebook. Shortly afterwards, police came to his house to ask some questions before leaving.

Worries over security have taken a toll on the Louvre, a former palace in the heart of Paris, which has seen annual visitor numbers fall to 7.3 million since November 2015, a drop of about two million.

After being closed immediately after the attack, the museum reopened Saturday under a heavy presence of police and soldiers.