An attacker with a knife killed at least three people and wounded several others at a church in the French city of Nice on Thursday, French officials said, in an incident the city’s mayor described as an act of “terrorism”.
According to a police source, the attacker had slit the throat of a church sacristan, beheaded a woman, and badly wounded a third victim before she succumbed to her injuries.
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The exact motive of the attack was unclear.
France’s chief anti-terrorist prosecutor has said the attacker, seriously wounded by police fire, is being treated in hospital.
The suspect has been identified as 21-year-old Tunisian national, a security and police source have said.
In another attack earlier this month, French teacher Samuel Paty was beheaded in broad daylight.
The incident comes amid growing tensions between France and the Muslim world over French President Emmanuel Macron’s recent speech wherein he said Islam was in “crisis”, and amid renewed public support in France for the right to show cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad.
The cartoons, which are deeply offensive to Muslims, are part of a renewed debate on freedom of expression after Paty’s killing.
Rebecca Rosman in Paris has contributed to this live blog.
Victim’s throat cut deeply, prosecutor says
One of the victims was a 60-year-old woman, who suffered “a cutting of the throat tantamount to a decapitation”, France’s chief anti-terrorism prosecutor has said.
A second victim, the 55-year-old sacristan of the church, had also had his throat cut deeply, prosecutor Jean-Francois Ricard said in a brief statement to press.
The third victim, a 44-year-old woman, died of multiple knife wounds in a neighbouring restaurant shortly after fleeing the church through a side door, Ricard said.
Attacker was carrying Italian Red Cross ID: Prosecutor
The suspect had arrived by train carrying an Italian Red Cross identity document, changed his clothes at the train station in Nice, then walked to the church to begin his attack, a prosecutor has said.
Jean-Francois Ricard, France’s chief anti-terrorist prosecutor, said the man had been caught on video surveillance at the train station and from there had walked the 400m to the Notre Dame church.
French prosecutor: Attacker entered from Italy
France’s anti-terrorism prosecutor says the attacker entered France from Italy.
Jean-Francois Ricard told a press conference that the man arrived in Lampedusa, Italy on September 20, and arrived in the Italian city of Bari on October 9.
The travel information came from a document on the man from the Italian Red Cross, Ricard said.
Suspect was not on Tunisia’s suspected ‘militant’ list
The suspect was not listed by Tunisian police as a suspected “militant” before he left the country in September, a Tunisian judiciary official has said.
Brahim Aouissaoui left Tunisia by boat on September 14 and arrived in Nice on Wednesday, the official, Mohsen Dali said.
Police are questioning his family in the port city of Sfax, a Tunisian security source said.
A French police source said Aouissaoui was not known to French intelligence services, either.
Biden vows to combat ‘extremist violence’
Democratic White House candidate Joe Biden has vowed to crack down on “extremist violence” if elected to the United States presidency, and has decried the “horrific” knife attack.
“Jill and I are keeping the French people in our prayers following the horrific terror attack in Nice – which targeted innocents in a house of worship,” he said on Twitter.
“A Biden-Harris administration will work with our allies and partners to prevent extremist violence in all forms.”
Jill and I are keeping the French people in our prayers following the horrific terror attack in Nice — which targeted innocents in a house of worship. A Biden-Harris administration will work with our allies and partners to prevent extremist violence in all forms.
— Joe Biden (@JoeBiden) October 29, 2020
UK archbishops pray for all those affected
The Archbishops of Canterbury and London say they are praying for the “nation of France” and for all those affected in today’s attack.
I'm praying for the nation of France, and for the friends and relatives of those murdered in Nice today. That this should have taken place in church, a house of prayer, underscores the godlessness of the attack.
— Archbishop of Canterbury (@JustinWelby) October 29, 2020
This last week we have seen children killed at a school in the #PeshwarBlast and worshippers killed today at a church in the #NiceChurchAttack; two places in which people should never be vulnerable to such heinous acts. Praying for the deceased, bereaved, injured and traumatised.
— Archbishop Angaelos (@BishopAngaelos) October 29, 2020
“This last week we have seen children killed at a school in the #PeshwarBlast and worshippers killed today at a church in the #NiceChurchAttack; two places in which people should never be vulnerable to such heinous acts,” tweeted Archbishop Anba Angaelos of the Coptic Orthodox Church in London, the United Kingdom.
‘No justification for this violence’: Muslim Council of Britain
The Muslim Council of Britain has said in a tweet that it is “deeply saddened by [the] news”.
“There can be no justification for this violence, particularly at a place of worship: a house of God and a place of refuge and solace. Our solidarity, thoughts and prayers remain with the victims and their families,” it said.
Deeply saddened by news of the brutal attack in #Nice. There can be no justification for this violence, particularly at a place of worship: a house of God and a place of refuge and solace.
Our solidarity, thoughts and prayers remain with the victims and their families.
— MCB (@MuslimCouncil) October 29, 2020
Tunisian suspect is Brahim Aouissaoui, 21, sources say
The Tunisian suspect is Brahim Aouissaoui, 21, a Tunisian security source and a French police source have said.
Aouissaoui is originally from the village of Sidi Omar Bouhajla near Kairouan, but had lately been living in Sfax, where police visited his family on Thursday, the Tunisian source said.
Man killed by police in second incident part of far-right: police
A man shot and killed by police earlier in the French city of Avignon claimed allegiance to an anti-immigrant group and had assaulted a local merchant of North African descent, authorities said.
The man in Avignon had a firearm, and was killed by police after he refused to drop his weapon and a warning shot failed to stop him, according to a national police official.
The official said the man claimed to belong to the far-right group Generation Identity.
Avignon Prosecutor Philippe Guemas told broadcaster France Bleu that the assailant was a 33-year-old born in France “who had nothing to do with the Muslim religion” and appeared to be “psychologically unstable”.
EU leaders urge ‘understanding among religions’
European Union leaders have urged the world “to work towards dialogue and understanding among communities and religions, rather than division”.
In a statement issued by European Council President Charles Michel, the 27 leaders expressed solidarity with France but made no reference to the controversy over cartoons mocking the Prophet Muhammad.
Can the rift between western leaders and Islam be bridged?
French Muslims face ‘constant attacks on their religion’: Journalist
Journalist Peter Allen, based in Paris, told Al Jazeera that while everyone condemns these attacks, he does not believe there is “enough appreciation of how Muslims feel in France about constant attacks on their religion and this portrayal of Muslims through these Charlie Hebdo cartoons”.
“[They’re portrayed as] being cretinous, being outside of society, they’re just figures to be mocked and laughed at. If you put any other social group in that position and said the government is going to support these attacks on you, there would be an outcry,” Allen said.
Iran condemns ‘cycle of provocations, hatred’
Iran has condemned the knife attack as part of a “cycle of provocations and violence” that must stop.
“We strongly condemn today’s terrorist attack in #Nice,” Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif tweeted in English.
“This escalating vicious cycle-hate speech, provocations & violence-must be replaced by reason & sanity. We should recognize that radicalism breads more radicalism, and peace cannot be achieved with ugly provocation.”
We strongly condemn today's terrorist attack in #Nice.
This escalating vicious cycle—hate speech, provocations & violence—must be replaced by reason & sanity.
We should recognize that radicalism only breeds more radicalism, and peace cannot be achieved with ugly provocations. pic.twitter.com/X5cbxkkrsm
— Javad Zarif (@JZarif) October 29, 2020
Zarif included a verse from the Quran: “And We have not sent you, (O Muhammad), except as a mercy to the worlds.”
Tunisia investigating suspect: Judiciary official
Tunisia has opened an investigation into the suspected attacker who is reported to be a Tunisian, said Mohsen Dali, an official in a specialised Tunisian court.
“The public prosecutor of the anti-terrorism court has opened a forensic investigation into the suspicion that a Tunisian committed a terrorist operation abroad,” Dali said.
‘Radical Islamic terrorist attacks must stop’: Trump
United States President Donald Trump has said on Twitter: “Our hearts are with the people of France.
“America stands with our oldest Ally in this fight. These Radical Islamic terrorist attacks must stop immediately. No country, France or otherwise can long put up with it!”
Our hearts are with the people of France. America stands with our oldest Ally in this fight. These Radical Islamic terrorist attacks must stop immediately. No country, France or otherwise can long put up with it!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 29, 2020
French Muslims express ‘anger, sadness’
French Muslims have reacted with horror to the killing of three citizens in the seaside town of Nice, saying the crime is representative of neither their faith nor their values.
The attack, which took place inside a church, is the third of its kind in a little more than a month and comes amid heightened tensions between Muslim countries and France.
Read more here.
UN chief condemns ‘heinous attack’
United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has condemned the attack in the French tourist city of Nice.
Guterres “strongly condemns the heinous attack today that took place in Notre Dame’s Basilica in Nice”, spokesman Stephane Dujarric said.
Saudi Arabia condemns attack: foreign ministry
Saudi Arabia “strongly condemns” the attack at a church in Nice, the kingdom’s foreign ministry has said in a statement.
“The kingdom categorically rejects such extremist acts, which contravene all religions … while stressing the importance of avoiding all practices which generate hatred, violence and extremism,” said the statement published by the state news agency, SPA.
#Statement | We reiterate the Kingdom's utter rejection of such extremist acts that are inconsistent with all religions, human beliefs and common sense. We affirm the importance of rejecting practices that generate hatred, violence and extremism.
— Foreign Ministry 🇸🇦 (@KSAmofaEN) October 29, 2020
Attacker is a 21-year-old Tunisian migrant, AFP reports
The suspected attacker is a 21-year-old Tunisian who arrived in Europe just a few weeks ago, according to sources close to the inquiry, the AFP news agency reported.
The suspect landed in late September on the Italian island of Lampedusa, where he was placed in coronavirus quarantine by authorities before being released with an order to leave Italian territory.
He arrived in France in early October, the sources said.
Muslim scholars group denounce ‘heinous barbaric crime’
A leading global Muslim group has condemned the deadly knife attack.
In a statement, the International Union of Muslim Scholars (IUMS) based in Doha reiterated its call to fight any tendency towards violence.
“The Union condemns and denounces this heinous barbaric crime, whoever does it, and whatever his motives and objectives,” the statement said.
It said that such actions are forbidden and violate the principles and values of Islam.
Qatar rejects ‘violence and terrorism’: Foreign ministry
In a statement, Qatar’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs has stressed its “rejection of targeting places of worship and terrorising the peaceful”.
The ministry reiterated “Qatar’s firm position of rejecting violence and terrorism regardless of the motives or reasons”.
Qatar expressed condolences to the families of the victims, the French government and people and wished the injured a speedy recovery.
Church sexton had throat slit while preparing for mass: Police source
At about 9am local time (08:00 GMT), a man armed with a knife entered the Notre Dame church in Nice and slit the throat of the sexton, beheaded a woman, and badly wounded a second woman, according to a police source.
Vincent Loques, the sexton, was a father of two and had just opened the church to prepare for the first mass of the day. He died on the spot.
The other woman managed to make it out of the church into a nearby cafe, but she later died from her wounds, Nice Mayor Christian Estrosi told reporters at the scene.
Macron: stepping up deployment of soldiers
Speaking from the scene of the attack in Nice, French President Emmanuel Macron has said he will be stepping up the deployment of soldiers to protect key French sites, such as places of worship and schools.
He said he will more than double the number of soldiers deployed from 3,000 to 7,000.
Macron denounced what he called an “Islamist terrorist attack” and promised, “the support of the whole nation to the Catholics of France and elsewhere”.
French police arrest Afghan armed with knife in Lyon: Source
A man armed with a long knife has been arrested in the southeastern French city of Lyon as he was about to board a tram, a source close to the inquiry told AFP.
The suspect, an Afghan national in his 20s, had already been flagged to French intelligence services, the source said.
“He was carrying a 30cm (12-inch) knife and seemed ready to take action,” Pierre Oliver, the mayor of Lyon’s Second Arrondissement, told AFP.
He is currently being questioned and will probably have a psychological exam, the source said.
‘Respect others’, former Malaysia PM tells France
In a Twitter thread, Former Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad has made some controversial statements on the fallout between the Muslim world and France.
1. A teacher in France had his throat slit by an 18-year-old Chechen boy. The killer was angered by the teacher showing a caricature of Prophet Muhammad. The teacher intended to demonstrate freedom of expression.
— Dr Mahathir Mohamad (@chedetofficial) October 29, 2020
Hello, this is Mersiha Gadzo in Toronto, Canada taking over the live updates from my colleague Usaid Siddiqui.
Pope prays for Nice church attack, end to terror
The Vatican said Pope Francis is praying for the victims of the knife attack at a Roman Catholic basilica in the southern French city of Nice and for an end to all “terrorist” violence.
Vatican spokesman Matteo Bruni says Francis was informed about the attack at Notre Dame Basilica and expressed his solidarity with the Catholic community in France.
In a statement, Bruni said the attack “sowed death in a place of love and consolation”.
UK stands steadfast with France after beheading: PM Johnson
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the United Kingdom stood steadfast with France after an attacker beheaded a woman and killed two other people in a suspected “terrorist” act at a church in the French city of Nice.
“I am appalled to hear the news from Nice this morning of a barbaric attack at the Notre-Dame Basilica,” Johnson said on Twitter.
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.
— Boris Johnson (@BorisJohnson) October 29, 2020
French PM announces a raise in security level
France has raised its security alert to the highest level after the knife attack in the city of Nice, Prime Minister Jean Castex said.
Castex also told the French National Assembly that the government’s response to the attack would be firm and implacable.
Streets were sealed at the site of the attack and near the Notre Dame church, Al Jazeera’s David Chater reported from Nice.
“Armed police are still here despite catching the attacker 12 minutes later. The feeling here is still one of great shock.”
EU slams ‘barbarity and fanaticism’ after Nice attack
European Union leaders expressed solidarity with France and pledged to confront “those that seek to incite and spread hatred”.
“My thoughts are with the victims of this hateful act. All of Europe is in solidarity with France. We will remain united and determined in the face of barbarity and fanaticism,” European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said.
Charles Michel, the president of the European Council, dubbed the attack “abominable” and declared: “All of Europe is with you”.
Turkey ‘strongly’ condemns knife attack in Nice
The Turkish Ministry of Foreign Affairs has condemned the attack in the southern French city of Nice calling it “savage”.
“We strongly condemn the attack committed today inside the Notre-Dame church in Nice,” a foreign ministry statement said, offering condolences to the victims’ relatives.
Merkel voices solidarity with France after ‘brutal’ attack
Chancellor Angela Merkel said Germany stood with France after a “brutal” knife attack on Thursday in which three people were killed at a church in the southern city of Nice.
“I am deeply shaken by the brutal murders in the church in Nice. My thoughts are with the relatives of those murdered and injured. Germany stands with France at this difficult time,” she said, in a tweet posted by her spokesman Steffen Seibert.
French police shoot dead man near Avignon
The French police shot dead a man in Montfavet, near the city of Avignon in southern France, after he had earlier threatened passersby with a handgun, police said, confirming media reports.
Man arrested in Jeddah after knife attack on guard at French consulate
A Saudi man was arrested in Jeddah after attacking and injuring a guard with a “sharp tool” at the French consulate on Thursday, Saudi state TV reported.
The French embassy said the consulate was subject to an “attack by knife which targeted a guard”, adding the guard was taken to hospital and his life was out of danger.
“The French embassy strongly condemns this attack against a diplomatic outpost which nothing could justify,” an embassy statement said.
Italy condemns ‘vile attack’ in Nice
Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte condemned the “vile attack” that killed three people at a church in the southern French city of Nice.
“The vile attack … will not shake the common front defending the values of freedom and peace,” Conte posted on Twitter.
“Our convictions are stronger than fanaticism, hatred and terror.”
Il vile attacco che si è consumato a Nizza non scalfisce il fronte comune a difesa dei valori di libertà e pace. Le nostre certezze sono più forti di fanatismo, odio e terrore. Ci stringiamo ai familiari delle vittime e ai nostri fratelli francesi.
Nous Sommes Unis!
— Giuseppe Conte (@GiuseppeConteIT) October 29, 2020
Paris mayor pledges support for Nice
Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo has said Nice and its people can “count on support” from her city amid the deadly knife attack that has killed at least two people.
“Attack at the Basilica of Nice: my first thoughts go to the victims and their loved ones affected by this horrible attack. The people of Nice, as well as it’s mayor Christian Estrosi, can count on support from the city of Paris.”
Attentat à la basilique de Nice : mes premières pensées vont aux victimes et à leurs proches touchées par cette horrible attaque. Les Niçoises et les Niçois, ainsi que son Maire, @cestrosi, peuvent compter sur le soutien de la Ville de @Paris.
— Anne Hidalgo (@Anne_Hidalgo) October 29, 2020
Left-wing leader Melenchon calls for ‘compassion’, ‘solidarity’
Far-left French politician Jean-Luc Melenchon condemned the knife attack on Twitter, calling for “compassion” and “solidarity” with French Catholics.
“Thoughts of compassion for the victims of the attack in Nice. Moving solidarity with the Catholics of France,” Melenchon said.
Pensée de compassion affligée pour les victimes de l'attentat de #Nice. Solidarité émue avec les catholiques de France.
— Jean-Luc Mélenchon (@JLMelenchon) October 29, 2020
‘Compassion not enough’: European Parliament member
French journalist, director and Member of European Parliament Raphael Glucksmann has called for solidarity with all victims and Catholics but said compassion was “not enough”.
“Another atrocious attack. One more. A church this time. Our total solidarity with the victims and with all Catholics. But compassion is not enough. It is our unfailing solidarity in the fight against radical Islamism that is required.”
Encore un attentat atroce. Un de plus. Une Eglise cette fois. Notre solidarité avec les victimes et avec tous les catholiques est totale. Mais la compassion ne suffit pas. C’est notre solidarité sans faille dans le combat contre l’islamisme radical qui est requise.#Nice
— Raphael Glucksmann (@rglucks1) October 29, 2020
Far-right Le Pen calls for ‘eradicating Islamism’
Far-right leader Marine Le Pen tweeted there was “a dramatic acceleration of Islamic acts of war against our fellow citizens”.
“The dramatic acceleration of Islamic acts of war against our fellow citizens and our country requires our leaders to provide a global response aimed at eradicating Islamism from our soil.”
L’accélération dramatique des actes de guerre islamistes contre nos concitoyens et notre pays impose à nos dirigeants une réponse globale visant à l’éradication de l’islamisme de notre sol. MLP #Nice06 #NotreDame
— Marine Le Pen (@MLP_officiel) October 29, 2020
French prosecutors say ‘terror’ probe opened into Nice attack
France’s national anti-terror prosecutors said on Thursday they have opened a murder inquiry after a man killed three people at a basilica in central Nice and wounded several others.
Two killed, several wounded in knife attack
At least two people have been killed and more are wounded after a knife attack in Nice. Here’s our full story.
Hello. This is Usaid Siddiqui in Toronto, Canada, bringing you the latest on the knife attack in the southern French city of Nice on Thursday.