A woman was decapitated and two other people were killed by a knife-wielding “terrorist” who shouted “Allahu akbar!” at a church in the French city of Nice — one of three attacks targeting the country on Thursday.
Mayor Christian Estrosi said on Twitter the attack occurred at the Notre Dame Basilica in the Mediterranean city and that police had detained the assailant.
Estrosi called the attacker a “terrorist” who shouted “Allahu akbar!” — Arabic for “God is great” — repeatedly as police collared him and that “the meaning of his gesture left no doubt.”
Two people were killed inside the church, the elderly woman who was beheaded and a man whose throat was cut, according to the BBC. A wounded woman managed to flee to a nearby cafe but died of her injuries later, a police source told AFP.
No mass was underway at the time of the attack, but the church opens about 8 a.m. and “people come in to pray at all hours,” Father Philippe Asso, who serves at the church, told Agence France-Presse.
A video posted online captured the moment police ran inside the church — less than a half-mile from the site where another attacker plowed a truck into a Bastille Day crowd, killing 86 people, on July 14, 2016.
“The suspected knife attacker was shot by police while being detained, he is on his way to hospital, he is alive,” the mayor told reporters Thursday.
The assailant was believed to be acting alone and police are not searching for other suspects, a police official said.
It emerged later that someone had managed to sound the alarm with a special protection system set up by the city, the BBC reported.
Daniel Conilh, 32, a waiter at the Grand Cafe de Lyon near the church, said it was shortly before 9 a.m. when “shots were fired and everybody took off running.”
“A woman came in straight from the church and said, ‘Run! Run! Someone has been stabbing people’,” he told AFP, and dozens of police and rescue vehicles quickly sealed off the area.
The horrific incident coincided with two other attacks targeting France.
A Saudi man was arrested in Jeddah after attacking a guard with a “sharp tool” at the French consulate, state media reported. The Saudi Press Agency offered no motive for the attack.
“The assailant was apprehended by Saudi security forces immediately after the attack. The guard was taken to hospital and his life is not in danger,” the embassy said in a statement.
And in southern France, police shot and killed a man in Montfavet, near the city of Avignon, after he had earlier threatened passers-by with a handgun, police said. According to radio station Europe 1, he shouted “Allahu akbar!”
“Enough is enough,” Estrosi added, according to Agence France-Presse. “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.”
He said on Twitter: “Everything points to a terrorist attack.”
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, referring to a teacher beheaded in a recent attack in Paris by a Chechen man, Abdullakh Anzorov, 18, as punishment for showing students cartoons of the Prophet Mohammad.
Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin said he was chairing a crisis meeting in response to Thursday’s attack, according to CNN.
The anti-terrorism prosecutor’s office said it has launched an investigation into the attack.
France has been on high alert for terror attacks since the Jan. 15 massacre at the satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo. The trial of suspected accomplices in that attack is underway in Paris.
It was not immediately clear what the motive was behind the Nice attack, or if there was any connection to the cartoons, which Muslims deem to be blasphemous.
Thursday’s attack prompted lawmakers in parliament to hold a minute of silence, before Prime Minister Jean Castex and other ministers left for an emergency meeting with President Emmanuel Macron, who is expected to head to the city.
A wave of jihadist attacks, often by so-called “lone wolf” assailants, has killed more than 250 people on France since 2015.
The latest attack drew condemnation from France’s allies, with Germany’s Angela Merkel voicing solidarity with France and EU Parliament President David Sassoli saying: “This pain is felt by all of us in Europe.
“We have a duty to stand together against violence and those that seek to incite and spread hatred,” he said on Twitter.
Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte condemned a “vile attack” but vowed it “will not shake the common front defending the values of freedom and peace.”
Abdallah Zekri, director general of the French Council of Muslim Worship, said: “I can only denounce as strongly as possible this act of cowardice against the innocent.”
He called on French Muslims to cancel festivities to mark the Mawlid, or the Prophet’s Birthday, which ends Thursday, “in solidarity with the victims and their loved ones.”
As we have seen, as the population in Europe of radical Islamist grows, so are these types of attacks. While the Democrats love to yell that vetting is bigoted, in the end we see the results in France where this was not done.
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