The Eiffel Tower was closed to all visitors Monday when three “terror suspects” carrying “large rucksacks” were spotted ascending the famous attraction.
Anti-terrorist police supported by a helicopter could be seen at the iconic landmark following the alarm being raised in the early hours.
But after a search which went on all morning it was thought they had escaped via parachute – prompting a theory that they had been extreme sportsmen all along. ‘There were reports of three people climbing the tower from the outside from about 5.30am,’ said a police source.
‘They were said to have large rucksacks so no chances could be taken. They completely disappeared, so enquiries are centered on them being extreme parachutists. ‘There were of course fears that they may have left dangerous material on the the tower before leaving.’
By 9am, hundreds of people, including visitors from Britain, were already waiting to go up the tower, but were told to vacate the area, as ticket booths were shut.
The tower has frequently been threatened by terrorist groups, including al-Qaeda and ISIS, with security stepped up since attacks by three radical gunmen in the city in January.
A police cordon was formed around the tower and people were moved to the banks of the nearby River Seine.
There have been numerous bomb alerts at the Eiffel Tower in recent years, and France is currently on the highest state vigilance alert. In 2005, a Norwegian parachutist died while attempting to jump off the tower with a parachute.
The 1,050ft tall iron lattice tower was built for the 1889 World’s Fair, and soon turned into a prestige symbol of modern France.
It is the most visited paid-for monument in the world, with some 7million people a year going up it.
For all these reasons, French security officials frequently highlight the tower’s vulnerability to terrorist attack.
The tower finally re-opened at around 2pm, following a closure of more than five hours which is likely to have cost hundreds of thousands of pounds in lost revenue. Police were meanwhile ‘searching Paris’, for the culprits, said the source.
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