Prime Minister Bernard Cazeneuve said the incident was “terrorist in nature”.
Police said that the man had been trying to get into the museum’s underground shop with a suitcase. His bag contained no explosives.
“We are dealing with an attack from an individual who was clearly aggressive and represented a direct threat, and whose comments lead us to believe that he wished to carry out a terrorist incident,” Michel Cadot, the head of the French capital’s police force, said, adding the man had shouted, “Allahu Akbar”.
The attacker was shot five times and seriously wounded. The soldier suffered slight head injuries.
Le Figaro newspaper reports that the suspect is an Egyptian who entered France on 26 January from Dubai. Investigators are still reportedly trying to establish his identity.
A number of police raids have been carried out in Paris, including one near the capital’s famed boulevard, Champs-Elysees Avenue, and another in its 8th district (arrondissement).
President Hollande praised the soldiers’ actions, saying “this operation prevented an attack whose terrorist nature leaves little doubt”.
He told reporters at an EU summit in Malta on Friday that he expected the suspect to be questioned “when it is possible to do so”.
Restaurant worker Sanae Hadraoui, 32, was waiting for breakfast at a McDonald’s in the Louvre’s restaurant complex when she heard the first gunshot, followed by another and then a couple more.
“I hear a shot. Then a second shot. Then maybe two more. I hear people screaming, ‘Evacuate! Evacuate!”‘ she said. “They told us to evacuate. I told my colleagues at the McDonald’s. We went downstairs and then took the emergency exit.”
Lance Manus, a tourist from Albany, New York, described young girls crying in panic, and had immediate thoughts of the Sept. 11 attacks in the United States.
“That’s what we’re used to now,” he said. “I mean we have to learn to live with it, be vigilant. So we listen to instructions from the security guards and do what they told us.”