Three dead as woman beheaded in knife attack at French church

French police officers stand at a security perimeter following a knife attack at the Notre Dame Basilica church in Nice, France, 29 October 2020. [EPA-EFE/SEBASTIEN NOGIER]

A knife-wielding attacker shouting “Allahu Akbar” beheaded a woman and killed two other people in a suspected terrorist incident at a church in the French city of Nice on Thursday (29 October), police and officials said.

Nice’s mayor, Christian Estrosi, who described the attack as terrorism, said on Twitter it had happened in or near the city’s Notre Dame church.

Estrosi said the attacker had repeatedly shouted the phrase “Allahu Akbar”, or God is greatest, even after he had been detained by police.

One of the people killed inside the church was believed to be the church warden, Estrosi said, adding that a woman had tried to escape from inside the church and had fled into a bar opposite the building.

“The suspected knife attacker was shot by police while being detained, he is on his way to hospital, he is alive,” Estrosi told reporters.

“Enough is enough,” Estrosi 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.”

Reuters journalists at the scene said police armed with automatic weapons had put up a security cordon around the church, which is on Nice’s Jean Medecin avenue, the city’s main shopping thoroughfare. Ambulances and fire service vehicles were also at the scene.

France shuts Paris mosque in crackdown after teacher's beheading

France ordered the temporary closure of a mosque outside Paris on Tuesday (20 October), part of a crackdown on Muslims who incite hatred after the decapitation of a teacher who showed his class caricatures of the Prophet Mohammad.

The Grand Mosque …

Solidarity

President Emmanuel Macron is due to visit Nice, Estrosi said.

In Paris, lawmakers in the National Assembly observed a minute’s silence in solidarity with the victims.

Marine Le Pen, leader of the far-right Rassemblement national [National Rally], adopted a provocative tone, calling for the “eradication of Islamism from our soil”.

Police said three people were confirmed to have died in the attack and several were injured. The French anti-terrorist prosecutor’s department said it had been asked to investigate.

A police source said a woman was decapitated. 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 French teacher beheaded earlier this month in an attack in a suburb of Paris.

The attack comes while France is still reeling from the beheading earlier this month of middle school teacher Paty by a man of Chechen origin.

The attacker had said he wanted to punish Paty for showing pupils cartoons of the Prophet Mohammad in a civics lesson

It was not immediately clear if Thursday’s attack was connected to the cartoons, which Muslims consider to be blasphemous.

Since Paty’s killing, French officials – backed by many ordinary citizens – have re-asserted the right to display the cartoons, and the images have been widely displayed at marches in solidarity with the killed teacher.

That has prompted an outpouring of anger in parts of the Muslim world, with some governments accusing Macron of pursuing an anti-Islam agenda.

The Brief, powered by ECPC – When words become deeds

Europe has to break the social networks’ hatred-based economic model, it has to implement efficient regulations that can dry up the revenue flows generated by the dissemination of hatred on the Internet. The savage assassination of Samuel Paty, who died for exercising his profession as a teacher, shows the extreme urgency of taking effective action. It shows words can become deeds.

[Edited by Zoran Radosavljevic]

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