French authorities are treating a knife attack that left at least three dead and several injured at a church in the South of France as an act of terrorism.
Officials say the attack took place Thursday morning at Nice’s Notre Dame Basilica. Two people died inside the church, officials say, with at least one reportedly decapitated. A third person, who was severely wounded, managed to flee the church but died shortly after.
Separately, police shot dead a man armed with a knife in the southern French city of Avignon. And in Saudi Arabia, a man was arrested after wounding a guard in front of the French consulate in Jeddah.
Nice Mayor Christian Estrosi characterized the attack in his city as a terrorist incident. He said it was again the victim of what he called ‘Islamo-fascism.” He said the suspect, taken to a hospital after being wounded during a police arrest, did not stop saying “Allah Akbar” during his detention.
The attack comes as France prepares to enter a new coronavirus lockdown — and after two other recent knifings, also blamed on radical Islamists and linked to controversial cartoons of the Prophet Muhammed. The knifings include the beheading of French school teacher Samuel Paty outside Paris.
More broadly, it appears to mark the latest in a raft of Islamic terrorist attacks to hit France in recent years — including a 2016 jihadist attack in Nice.
President Emmanuel Macron’s recent defense of the cartoons depicting Islam’s Prophet Muhammad in the name of free speech has sparked protests and boycotts in a number of Muslim countries. Many Muslims are deeply offended by the cartoons. But here in France, thousands of people have rallied in favor of free expression, including several prominent Muslim leaders.
Macron visited Nice shortly after the attack. It is the third of such attack to occur in France in the last three weeks.