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French police shot an unarmed woman wearing a burka at a Paris train station on Tuesday after passengers reported that she was behaving in a threatening manner and shouting jihadi slogans.

The woman was hospitalised with a stomach wound, underwent surgery, and remained in critical condition, according to Paris prosecutors investigating the incident.

France has been on the highest level of alert for terror attacks since mid-October when an assailant armed with a knife killed a teacher in the northern town of Arras and swore allegiance to the Islamic State in a video.

The government has warned that the war between Israel and Hamas could encourage radicalised individuals in France to carry out attacks. The authorities have also vowed to protect the country’s Jewish community, the largest in Europe, from a worrying increase in antisemitic incidents.

On Tuesday two passengers on a commuter train called emergency services to report a woman wearing a full-body veil was allegedly shouting “Allahu akbar” and “You’re all going to die” and threatening to detonate a bomb, said Laurent Nuñez, police chief of the Paris region. 

Police detained the woman at the Bibliothèque Nationale de France station in south-east Paris, ordering her to sit on the ground as they set up a security perimeter and evacuated the station. But according to Nuñez, she later got up and advanced towards the officers, despite police ordering her to stop and show her hands to prove she was not armed.

When she did not comply, two officers fired eight shots at her, prosecutors said. 

No explosives or weapons were found at the scene.

“The officers faced a situation that could have been dangerous,” Nuñez said. “It is always easy in hindsight to judge, but when you consider the information that was given to police, this situation was very threatening.”

Prosecutors later identified the woman as a 39-year-old from Val de Marne, a suburb east of Paris, who in 2021 had been arrested for allegedly making threats against police officers. At that time, she was held in a psychiatric ward over mental health issues.

“A search of her home has not at this stage revealed evidence that would lead one to fear she had been radicalised,” the prosecutors said. “She also is known to have schizophrenia and is being treated for it.”

Two investigations have been opened: one against the woman for allegedly threatening the police and advocating terrorism, the other into whether the police were justified in using their firearms.

A spate of bomb threats in recent weeks has set France on edge and forced the evacuations of airports, tourist attractions such as the Château de Versailles and a Jewish school north of Paris.

Prosecutors on Tuesday separately opened an investigation into graffiti depicting the star of David, a symbol of Israel and the Jewish faith, being scrawled on roughly 60 buildings in the 14th arrondissement in the south of Paris.

Additional reporting by Sarah White

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