French police at the scene of a shooting incident near the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, France, June 6, 2017.
French police at the scene of a shooting incident near the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, France, June 6, 2017.

The attack on a French police officer outside Paris' famed Notre Dame Cathedral by a hammer-wielding man on Tuesday was an "isolated act," government spokesperson Christophe Castaner said on Wednesday. However, the country has created a new umbrella counterterrorism task force with all intelligence agencies.

Speaking to France's commercial radio network RTL on Tuesday, Castaner shared the results of the initial investigation and said that the attacker did not show "any sign of radicalisation."

The suspected assailant wielding a hammer attacked a police officer guarding Notre Dame Cathedral on Tuesday, crying "This is for Syria!" before being shot and wounded by other officers.

Dozens of armed police sealed off the area and put the Gothic cathedral into lockdown with nearly 1,000 tourists and worshippers inside.

Former US ambassador to the UN Nancy Soderberg was among the people who were trapped inside the cathedral.

Identity of assailant

Documents found on the attacker identified him as a 40-year-old Algerian who was a doctoral student in information science at a university in the east of France, according to a source close to the investigation.

The suspect claimed to be a "soldier of the caliphate" of Daesh after the attack, the source said.

Castaner said the attacker was not known by the police before the incident, adding that it "is very difficult to anticipate" attacks when they were staged by people who were not on the police radar.

New counterterrorism measures

France launched a new counterterrorism task force on Wednesday comprised of all intelligence services that will coordinate responses to attacks.

Newly-elected President Emmanuel Macron, portrayed by rivals as weak on security during the presidential campaign, last month instructed the task force be created to bring together France's multiple security agencies inside the Elysee presidential palace.

The performance of France's intelligence services has come under close scrutiny since the November 2015 attacks on Paris, when militant gunmen and suicide bombers struck entertainment venues across the capital, killing 130 people.

Macron on Wednesday appointed Pierre de Bousquet de Florian to head the new intelligence task force known as the National Centre for Counter Terrorism. It will be under the direct authority of the president.

Florian once headed France's DST regional intelligence service that was disbanded under former president Nicolas Sarkozy.

The new task force will include some 20 people representing the various security services and be operational 24 hours, seven days a week.

"This has been created to ensure that the intelligence services truly cooperate," said a French presidency official.

France has remained under the state of emergency which was imposed after the November 2015 attacks. Macron's new centrist government recently announced plans to extend the emergency measures in November, drawing some criticism from rights groups.

More than 230 people have been killed in a wave of attacks in France either claimed by or inspired by Daesh over the past two-and-a-half years.

Source: TRTWorld and agencies