At least six people were injured in an attack at Paris’ Gare Du Nord train station early Wednesday, restricting access to one of the French capital’s major rail hubs.
An individual began attacking people at 6:42 a.m. local time and was neutralized a minute later, according to French Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin. The individual was disarmed by off-duty police officers who were going home and by border police, Darmanin said in a press conference.
The attacker used a metal hook in the incident, hitting the first victim about 20 times, according to the Public Prosecutor later Tuesday.
The attacker made the weapon himself, Darmanin said earlier. Paris police had initially said the individual started attacking people with a knife at 6:45 a.m. local time.
Several police officers opened fire, including a security agent working for rail operator SNCF, police said. Multiple shots were fired and the alleged attacker was injured.
The attacker, who was said to be in critical condition, has since been hospitalized and is undergoing surgery.
The injured people include two male passengers aged 36 and 41, three female passengers aged 40, 47 and 53, and a 46-year-old policeman who is part of the border police at the Gare du Nord.
“Only the 36-year-old man is still hospitalized at this time” but is not in critical condition,” according to prosecutors.
The motive for the knife attack is unknown, according to the Paris Prosecutor’s Office.
The French national Anti-Terrorism Prosecutor’s Office said it is “evaluating the facts” about the attack, but has not yet taken the case. The fact that the suspected attacker was injured may lengthen the time it will take to evaluate the facts about the case, the office added.
The French Public Prosecutor described the attacker as someone who “could be a Libyan or Algerian man in his 20s.”
“The precise identification of the suspect is in progress,” the prosecutor’s statement added, noting that the individual was “registered under several identities in the automated fingerprint file.” The attacker could not be questioned yet “given the state of his health,” the statement said.
The French national Anti-Terrorism Prosecutor’s Office said it was “evaluating the facts,” but has not yet taken the case.
Darmanin arrived at Gare du Nord soon after the attack Wednesday morning. Earlier, he wrote on Twitter that the alleged attacker had injured several people before being “quickly neutralized.”
“Thankful to the police for their effective and courageous response,” Darmanin tweeted.
CNN affiliate BFMTV interviewed one woman, identified only as Lili, who witnessed the attack and helped injured victims.
“My friends and I were going on holiday this morning and we were at the entrance of the station when we heard people yelling,” she said.
“We saw two people on the ground. One was hitting the other. People tried to pull them apart and that’s when the attacker pulled out his weapon. People started yelling ‘knife!’ and began running away. I helped the first victim who had been attacked and I got the impression that the individual was attacking all the people who tried to get near him and overpower him.
“I helped the injured person who had been attacked and was in a state of shock. I brought them to the police and I then tried to find my friends and that’s when we heard the gunshots. The armed forces responded very quickly to the attack. It didn’t even last five minutes even though it felt like an eternity to me.
“We are all shocked by what we saw. We were two meters away. It could have been one of us because we were so close. It’s very traumatic.”
A few hundred people coalesced in the main concourse of the Gare Du Nord station, many looking for information about trains following the attack, according to CNN’s team at the station.
Several dozen police officers were posted around a security perimeter that blocked off a large portion of the station’s main concourse, blocking access to several intercity train platforms, according to CNN’s team. Access to the Eurostar terminal has since reopened, after it was cut off for several hours.
Police screens hid the scene of the attack from view but police officers could be seen collecting evidence in paper bags.
While residents of Paris had begun to relax after several years of heightened tensions around terror attacks, Wednesday’s incident, which currently is not being investigated as terror-related by French authorities, is the second in two months. In December, a man who was being investigated at the time by Paris’ Prosecutor’s Office for racist violence shot and killed three Kurdish activists in the north of Paris.
Even so, the atmosphere at Gare du Nord was calm Wednesday around lunchtime and passengers seemed hopeful of being able to catch their trains.