Police in Paris had issued a warning telling the public to stay away from the normally busy Les Halles area in the 1st arrondissement.
It followed reports of a shooting near the Saint Leu Saint Gilles church on Rue Saint Denis at around 4pm. The church is open to the public on Saturday as part of France's Heritage Days event.
Authorities also sent out a warning on their terror alert app, telling people to stay away and that a police operation was in progress.
Actualisation SAIP. Église St Leu. pic.twitter.com/xO2MzFokib
— Pierre Schydlowski (@PSchydlowski) 17 septembre 2016
The area was sealed off and specialist counter-terrorist Swat teams were deployed.
With Paris and France on high alert after a string of terror attacks there were fears the French capital had been targeted again.
But at 4.48pm police then tweeted the operation was over and that there was “no danger to report”.
Paris 1er – Fin de l'intervention des forces de l'ordre – Levée de doute effectuée, aucun danger à signaler
— Préfecture de police (@prefpolice) 17 septembre 2016
It is unclear however what exactly sparked the false alert, but there were reports of crowds fleeing in panic on nearby Rue Rambuteau and around the Chatelet area.
Gros dispositif de police en train de se mettre en place à Étienne Marcel. pic.twitter.com/mZOWCdjw2q
— Remy Buisine (@RemyBuisine) 17 septembre 2016
— Guillaume Poingt (@guillaumepoingt) 17 septembre 2016
Witnesses reported that police were shouting at them to leave the area but not give any information why. That prompted scenes of panic in a part of Paris that wold have been busy with shoppers on a Saturday afternoon.