France has been struck by two terror attacks within hours of each other as three people were killed – two of them beheaded – in an attack inside a church in Nice before a gunman was shot dead by police in Avignon.
The first attack began around 9am at the Notre Dame basilica in Nice where a knifeman beheaded an elderly female parishioner and a male church warden, fatally stabbed a second woman, wounded several others, and was then shot and arrested by police.
Two hours later, a gunman threatened people on the streets of Avignon – 120 miles from Nice – while shouting ‘Allahu Akbar’ before he was fatally shot by police.
Elsewhere, a security guard at the French consulate in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, was stabbed and wounded.
Another man was also arrested in Sartrouville, north of Paris, around 1pm after his father called police and said his son had left home and planned ‘to do as in Nice.’
Police stopped the man in his car near a local church, and Le Parisien reports that he was in possession of a knife. The car was searched, but nothing else was found.
Meanwhile in Lyon, an Afghan man in his 20s was arrested while trying to board a tram carrying a long knife. The man was known to French intelligence services.
The attacks come amid fury across the Islamic world at President Macron for defending satirical cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed, and on the day that Sunni Muslims mark the Prophet’s birthday.
It also comes less than two weeks after a schoolteacher, Samuel Paty, was beheaded north of Paris for showing cartoons of the Prophet to his class in a lesson on free speech.
Three people have died – two of whom were beheaded – after a knifeman attacked the Notre Dame basilica in Nice at 9am on Friday, before he was shot and arrested by police
An elderly woman who had come to the church early to pray was the first to be beheaded before a male church warden was also killed. A third woman was then stabbed multiple times, ran across the street, and died of her injuries
Police who stormed the basilica said the body of the first woman was found close to the font (file image of the interior). The suspect is believed to be a man in his 20s who gave his name as ‘Brahim’
Police swarmed the area around 9am, running into the church before the attacker was shot and arrested. Mayor Christian Estrosi said the attacker kept shouting Allahu Akbar even after being medicated
Emmanuel Macron arrives at the scene of the attack, where he spoke with paramedics and police officers
A person who was wounded during the attack on a basilica in Nice is wheeled into the back of an ambulance
Police said that ‘several’ people were also wounded in the attack, but an exact number was not given (pictured, a wounded person is taken away from the scene)
A security officer secures the area after a reported knife attack at Notre Dame church in Nice
A woman, believed to be a close friend of one of the victims, weeps in front of the basilica after three people were killed
It is thought the woman was a close friend of the church warden, named locally as Vincent L, who was killed in the attack
The first attack took place at 9am in Nice, before the second attack in Avignon two hours later. Separately, a guard at the French consulate in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, was stabbed
Muslims ‘have a right to kill French people’, ex Malaysian PM says
Malaysia’s former prime minister Mahathir Mohamad has said that Muslims have a right ‘to kill millions of French people’, shortly after a knife-wielding man launched a deadly attack in Nice.
Mahathir – who was prime minister of Muslim-majority Malaysia until his government collapsed in February – launched his extraordinary outburst on Twitter.
Referring to the beheading of a French teacher who showed pupils cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed, Mahathir said he did not approve of that attack but that freedom of expression does not include ‘insulting other people’.
‘Irrespective of the religion professed, angry people kill,’ said the outspoken 95-year-old, who has in the past drawn controversy for remarks attacking Jews and the LGBT community.
‘The French in the course of their history has killed millions of people. Many were Muslims. Muslims have a right to be angry and to kill millions of French people for the massacres of the past.’
In the Nice attack, the first victim – a woman in her seventies – was attacked after coming there early to pray and was found ‘almost beheaded’ close to the church font.
A 45-year-old sacristan, named locally as Vincent L, a father-of-two, was then attacked and also beheaded.
A third woman – described as of African origin and aged in her 30s – was then stabbed ‘multiple times’ and managed to flee to a bar across the street, where she died.
Police were called and arrived at 9.10am. They stormed the basilica, shooting and arresting the attacker.
The attacker is a man in his 20s who gave his name as Brahim while being arrested, Le Figaro reported. His identity is being checked by police.
Nice Mayor Christian Estrosi said the attacker ‘kept shouting Allahu Akbar even after being medicated’, and that ‘the meaning of his gesture is not in doubt’.
‘Enough is enough,’ he said. ‘It’s time now for France to exonerate itself from the laws of peace in order to definitively wipe out Islamo-fascism from our territory.’
Estrosi said the victims had been killed in a ‘horrible way’. ‘The methods match, without doubt, those used against the brave teacher in Conflans Sainte Honorine, Samuel Paty,’ he said.
He also called for churches around France to be given extra protection or closed as a precaution.
In Avignon, a man armed with a handgun began threatening people in the Montfavet around 11.15am while shouting Allahu Akbar, France1 reported.
Police rushed to the scene and confronted the man, who refused to drop his weapon. Police then shot the man with a Taser, which failed to stop him, so they opened fire with live ammunition, killing him.
A woman, believed to be the wife of the church warden (wearing the beige jumper) is seen at the scene of the attack in Nice
French President Emmanuel Macron and Nice mayor Christian Estrosi (standing to his right) meet police officers after a terror attack at Notre Dame church in Nice
French President Emmanuel Macron, second right, Nice mayor Christian Estrosi, right, French Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin, second left, and Justice Minister Eric Dupond-Moretti arrive at Notre Dame church in Nice
Police officers stand guard near Notre Dame church in Nice, southern France, after a terror attack
Special forces stand guard near the scene of a reported knife attack at Notre Dame church in Nice
A police dog handler and officers search a car parked near the Basilica of Notre-Dame de Nice
French anti-terror investigators have announced they are leading the probe into the attack in Nice, but have not yet taken up the investigation in Avignon.
Meanwhile in Saudi Arabia, a man was arrested after stabbing a guard at the French consulate with ‘a sharp tool’. The attacker was arrested while the guard was taken to hospital with non-life threatening injuries.
France’s embassy in Riyadh condemned the ‘attack on diplomatic premises which can never be justified’.
French diplomats also called on Saudi authorities to ‘shed light on this attack’ and ensure the safety of French people in the kingdom.
‘We call on our colleagues in Saudi Arabia to show maximum vigilance,’ the embassy said after Saudi security forces apprehended the suspect, who is said to be a Saudi national in his 40s.
The Nice attack happened less than half a mile from where another attacker plowed a truck into a Bastille Day crowd in 2016, killing dozens.
Emmanuel Macron led an emergency cabinet meeting on the attack before leaving for Nice, where he is expected to arrive shortly.
French politicians were taking part in a debate on the country’s new coronavirus restrictions when news of the attack reached them.
They observed a minute of silence before the debate broke up so an emergency security meeting could be held.
After the meeting, Prime Minister Jean Castex moved the threat level from ‘risk of attack’ to the ’emergency level’, meaning threats are imminent.
Forensic officers wait outside the basilica after two people were killed inside during a terror attack in Nice
French soldiers and policemen secure the site of a knife attack in Nice
Rescue and police are mobilised because a man attacked several people with a knife in the Notre-Dame Basilica in Nice
French policemen stand guard a street after a knife attack in Nice
French policemen and firefighters stand guard a street after a knife attack in Nice
French police officers stand at a security perimeter following a knife attack at the Notre Dame Basilica church in Nice
French policemen stand guard a street after a knife attack in Nice
A security officer guards the area after a reported knife attack at Notre Dame church in Nice
French politicians were taking part in a coronavirus lockdown debate when the news reached them – and held a minute of silence in the chamber (pictured)
Images on French media showed the neighborhood locked down and surrounded by police and emergency vehicles. Sounds of explosions could be heard as sappers exploded suspicious objects.
The Catholic Church issued a statement, condemning the ‘unspeakable act’ and saying that ‘Christians must not become a symbol to be cut down.’
Catholic bishops in France called for all church bells to ring at 3pm in solidarity with the victims, before adding: ‘It is urgent that this gangrene be stopped as it is urgent that we find the indispensable fraternity which will hold us all upright in the face of these threats’
UN extremism official blasts ‘inflammatory’ Charlie Hebdo cartoons
The head of a UN anti-extremism body expressed ‘deep concern’ Wednesday about growing tensions over satirical cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed, urging ‘mutual respect’ between people.
The statement by Miguel Angel Moratinos – who heads the United Nations Alliance of Civilizations – follows growing anger in the Muslim world over France’s response to the beheading of a teacher who had shown his pupils the images as part of a class on free speech.
President Emmanuel Macron has vigorously defended the publication of cartoons depicting the Prophet Mohammed on free speech grounds, sparking angry protests across swathes of the Muslim world and campaigns to boycott French products.
The UN High Representative ‘is following with deep concern the growing tensions and instances of intolerance triggered by the publication of the satirical caricatures depicting Prophet Mohammed,’ a spokesman said.
‘The inflammatory caricatures have also provoked acts of violence against innocent civilians who were attacked for their sheer religion, belief or ethnicity.
‘Insulting religions and sacred religious symbols provokes hatred and violent extremism leading to polarization and fragmentation of the society.’
Pope Francis was among those leading an outpouring of sympathy, saying: ‘I pray for the victims, for their families and for the beloved French people, so that they can react to evil with good.’
Former French Presidents Nicolas Sarkozy and Francois Hollande also issued statements, the former condemning an ‘act of barbarism’ and calling on people to oppose ‘the enemies of democracy; while the latter vowed that ‘democracy is our weapon… in the face of Islamist terrorism’.
The French Council of Muslim Worship also issued a statement strongly condemning the attack.
‘As a sign of mourning and solidarity with the victims and their relatives, I call on the Muslims of France to cancel all the festivities of the Mawlid feast,’ which takes place on October 28 and 29.
The attack is just the latest to strike France, after history teacher Samuel Paty was beheaded in another attack north of Paris.
Paty was stabbed by an 18-year-old Chechen after he showed the cartoons to his students during a lesson on free speech.
Parents of pupils at the school had led a campaign against him, before the attack took place. Seven have been arrested.
Just a few weeks earlier, an 18-year-old Pakistani stabbed a wounded two people outside the old offices of satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo.
The man has admitted to police that he was targeting the magazine for publishing cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson also spoke out to condemn the attack, tweeting: ‘I am appalled to hear the news from Nice this morning of a barbaric attack at the Notre-Dame Basilica.
‘Our thoughts are with the victims and their families, and the UK stands steadfastly with France against terror and intolerance.’
German Chancellor Angela Merkel expressed ‘solidarity’ with France, saying she is ‘deeply moved by the cruel murders in a church in Nice.’
It also comes amid mass protests in many Islamic countries against Emmanuel Macron, after the French President spoke up in defence of the cartoons.
Tweeting in Arabic, he wrote: ‘Nothing makes us hold back, ever. We respect all differences in the spirit of peace. We never accept hate speech and defend rational debate.
‘We will always stand by human dignity and universal values.’
His remarks have prompted demonstrations in Gaza, Turkey, Pakistan and Bangladesh, and boycotts of French products in Jordan, Kuwait, Qatar and Palestinian territories.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has led outrage at Macron, suggesting that he is mentally ill and needs to have his health evaluated.
On Thursday, Ankara said strongly condemned Thursday’s ‘savage’ knife attack in southern France that left three people dead, offering its ‘solidarity’, despite a running diplomatic spat with Paris.
‘We strongly condemn the attack committed today inside the Notre-Dame church in Nice,’ a foreign ministry statement said, while offering condolences to the victims’ relatives.
Tunisians take part in a protest against the publication of cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed in France
Thousands of protesters marched through the streets of Tunisia on Thursday, as anger at the publication of cartoon of Mohammed spread across the Muslim world
Marchers gathered on the streets of Tunisia on Thursday, following on from marches in Gaza, Bangladesh and Pakistan
The attack is thought to have begun around 9am before police were called, and arrested the perpetrator. The area is now cordoned off
Armed police approach the church where the attack is thought to have started during Mass
Armed police are seen on the streets of Nice after the attack early on Thursday
The attack began around 9am just as Mass was getting underway at the basilica, the largest Roman Catholic church in Nice
Police cordon off the street leading to the basilica after the attack on Thursday
The Islamic world’s anger at France deepened on Wednesday as Turkey condemned a Charlie Hebdo cartoon showing its president Recep Tayyip Erdogan lifting a woman’s burka to look at her naked backside.
Erdogan called the cartoonists ‘scoundrels’ and accused the West of wanting to ‘relaunch the Crusades’ by attacking Islam after the image appeared on the front of this week’s magazine.
‘I don’t need to say anything to those scoundrels who insult my beloved prophet on such a scale,’ Erdogan said, calling it a ‘disgusting attack’.
Showing Erdogan in a T-shirt and underpants, the caricature has Erdogan saying ‘Ooh, the Prophet’ as he looks at the woman’s backside, and comes with the caption: ‘Erdogan – in private he’s very funny’.
A Charlie Hebdo cartoon showing the naked Prophet’s backside was the image which French school teacher Samuel Paty showed to his class in the lesson which led to his murder and beheading earlier this month.
French president Emmanuel Macron has staunchly defended free expression and the right to mock religion in the wake of the terror attack, but has become a target of anger in the Islamic world.
Turkey has vowed to take ‘legal, diplomatic actions’ in response to the cartoon while Pakistan’s PM Imran Khan called for an end to ‘attacks on Islam’, saying the West should be willing to treat blasphemy in the same way as Holocaust denial.
Meanwhile Iran’s president Hassan Rouhani also took aim at France today by warning that insulting the Prophet would encourage ‘violence and bloodshed’.
Indian Muslims burn posters of Emmanuel Macron during protest against his defence of cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed
Thousands of Muslims gathered in Bhopal, India, to protest against Macron’s comments defending cartoons of the Prophet
Protesters in Bhopal also joined calls for a boycott of French products that is already underway in some Muslim countries
TERROR IN FRANCE: HOW ATTACKS HAVE UNFOLDED OVER FIVE YEARS
An attacker with a knife killed three people and wounded several others at a church in Nice on Thursday, police said.
The terror attack took place less than two weeks after the beheading of middle school teacher Samuel Paty by a man of Chechen origin.
Paty’s attacker said he wanted to punish him for showing pupils cartoons of the Prophet Mohammad in a civics lesson.
Here are other attacks that have taken place in France over the past few years:
Sept 25, 2020 – Two people are stabbed and wounded in Paris near the former offices of the Charlie Hebdo satirical magazine, where Islamist militants carried out a deadly attack in 2015. A man originally from Pakistan was arrested
Oct. 3, 2019 – Mickael Harpon, a 45-year-old IT specialist with security clearance to work in the Paris police headquarters, killed three police officers and one civilian employee before being shot dead by police. He had converted to Islam about 10 years earlier.
March 23, 2018 – A gunman kills three people in southwestern France after holding up a car, firing on police and taking hostages in a supermarket, screaming ‘Allahu Akbar’. Security forces storm the building and kill him.
July 26, 2016 – Two attackers kill a priest and seriously wound another hostage in a church in northern France before being shot dead by French police. Francois Hollande, who was France’s president at the time, says the two hostage-takers had pledged allegiance to Islamic State.
July 14, 2016 – A gunman drives a heavy truck into a crowd celebrating Bastille Day in the French city of Nice, killing 86 people and injuring scores more in an attack claimed by Islamic State. The attacker is identified as a Tunisian-born Frenchman.
June 14, 2016 – A Frenchman of Moroccan origin stabs a police commander to death outside his home in a Paris suburb and kills his partner, who also worked for the police. The attacker told police negotiators during a siege that he was answering an appeal by Islamic State.
Nov. 13, 2015 – Paris is rocked by multiple, near simultaneous gun-and-bomb attacks on entertainment sites around the city, in which 130 people are killed and 368 are wounded. Islamic State says it was responsible for the attacks. Two of the 10 known perpetrators were Belgian citizens and three others were French.
Jan. 7-9, 2015 – Two Islamist militants break into an editorial meeting of satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo on Jan. 7 and rake it with bullets, killing 12 people. Another militant kills a policewoman the next day and takes hostages at a supermarket on Jan. 9, killing four before police shoot him dead.