France has been struck by two terror attacks as three people were killed – two of them beheaded – in an attack in Nice hours before another knifeman was shot dead by police in Avignon.
- The first attack began around 9am at the Notre Dame basilica – the largest Roman Catholic church in Nice – where a knifeman stabbed multiple people inside the church before being shot and arrested by police.
- Two hours later, police in the city of Avignon – 120 miles away – shot and killed another knifeman who reportedly threatened passersby while shouting ‘Allahu Akbar’
The attacks come amid fury across the Islamic world at President Macron for defending satirical cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed which had been shown to a class of schoolchildren by a teacher, who was later beheaded.
Nice Mayor Christian Estrosi revealed that two of the victims in the cathedral stabbing died inside the church – a woman and a male church warden, both of whom were also beheaded.
A second woman who had been stabbed in the neck managed to flee the cathedral and into a bar across the street where she died of her wounds, according to local reports.
Police described the scene as a “vision of horror”. The national anti-terrorist prosecutor said an investigation had been opened into “killings linked to a terrorist organisation”.
The mayor of Nice, Christian Estrosi, said the man had said “Allahu Akbar” several times while he was being arrested and handcuffed by police.
“We have two people killed inside the church … and a third person who was in a bar facing the church where she had taken refuge,” Estrosi said. “Enough is enough … we have to remove this Islamo-fascism from our territory.”
A witness called David, who runs the Brioche Chaude restaurant, opposite the church, told BFMTV he had alerted the police.
“I was selling croissants when a man came in and said to me: ‘Monsieur, there’s a decapitated woman in the cathedral’. I didn’t believe him at first but he repeated it. I went to the cathedral and saw the municipal police and called to them. They came quickly.
“I went back [to the restaurant] and pulled down the security grill.”
He added: “The person who came in [to the restaurant] was someone who had been in the cathedral who was very shocked. He just said: ‘Monsieur there is a woman decapitated in the cathedral’. That’s all. I was shocked. I’m still shaking.”
The French anti-terrorist prosecutor’s department said it had been asked to investigate the attack.
The motive of the attacker was not immediately clear, but France was already on heightened security alert as Muslims in multiple Islamic countries expressed anger over the display and publication in France of caricatures of Prophet Muhammad.
Earlier this week, France’s national police called for increased security at religious sites around the All Saint’s holiday this coming weekend.
On Tuesday, the areas around the Arc de Triomphe and Eiffel Tower in central Paris were briefly evacuated after a bag filled with ammunition was discovered.
The terrorist threat remains “very high,” Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin said on Tuesday, “because we have a lot of enemies from within and outside the country.”
The French Foreign Ministry issued safety advice on Tuesday to French citizens currently in Indonesia, Bangladesh, Iraq, and Mauritania, urging them to exercise caution, stay away from protests, and avoid public gatherings.
The caricatures of Muhammad have been widely displayed at marches in solidarity with a French history teacher, who was murdered by an 18-year-old Islamic terrorist on Oct. 16.
Samuel Paty was beheaded in broad daylight outside his school in a middle-class Paris suburb by a teenage Chechen refugee, who had sought to avenge his victim’s use of the caricatures in a class on freedom of expression. Police shot the attacker dead.
President Macron has vigorously defended the cartoons as protected under the right to free speech. At a memorial for the teacher last week, Macron said, “We won’t renounce the caricatures.” On Sunday, he wrote on Twitter in both Arabic and English, “We will not give in, ever.”
Muslims ‘have the right to kill millions of French people’, Malaysia’s former PM says
Malaysia’s former prime minister said today that Muslims have a right ‘to kill millions of French people’, shortly after a knife-wielding man launched a deadly attack in Nice.
Mahathir Mohamad, who was PM of Muslim-majority Malaysia until his government collapsed in February, launched his extraordinary outburst after three people were killed at a church in the latest terror attack to bring misery to France.
The 95-year-old politician said he did not approve of the beheading of a French school teacher for sharing Prophet Mohammed cartoons, but said that freedom of expression does not include ‘insulting other people’.
‘Irrespective of the religion professed, angry people kill’, said Mahathir.
‘The French in the course of their history [have] killed millions of people. Many were Muslims.’
In a tweet which has since been removed for violating the website’s rules, Mahathir went on: ‘Muslims have a right to be angry and to kill millions of French people for the massacres of the past.’