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France terror latest: Macron says ‘we won’t give in’ after Nice beheading attack and Avignon gunman death

Follow the latest updates

Sam Hancock,Jane Dalton
Thursday 29 October 2020 20:03 GMT
Armed police enter church in Nice following multiple stabbings

France is reeling after a knife-wielding attacker shouting "Allahu Akbar" (God is Greatest) beheaded a woman and killed two other people in a church in the French city of Nice on Thursday.

President Emmanuel Macron, declaring that France had been subject to an Islamist terrorist attack, said he would deploy thousands more soldiers to protect important French sites, such as places of worship and schools. He said France had been attacked "over our values, for our taste for freedom, for the ability on our soil to have freedom of belief". "And I say it with lots of clarity again today: we will not give any ground." 

Mr Macron also tweeted: “In France, there is only one community - the national community,” and “Whatever your religion, believer or not, we must unite at these times.” He told the people of Nice: ”We won’t give in to any terrorist thinking."

Hours later, a man wielding a handgun was shot dead by police near Avignon, around 250km away. He is believed to have been a member of the far-right Génération identitaire movement.

Please see below for how our coverage unfolded.


SOS call box

The mayor of Nice has said a witness used an emergency call station outside the Nice church to contact police.

Christian Estrosi said this allowed for the “rapid intervention” of officers in Nice, who arrested the suspected attacker. 

The mayor tweeted a picture of himself with the French president, who has arrived in the city, by the box.

Zoe Tidman29 October 2020 13:40

Leaders from around the world react to attacks

The Pope, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and Giuseppe Conte are among world leaders who have spoken out to condemn the attacks seen in France and Saudi Arabia today.

Taking a markedly different approach, Malaysia’s former PM Dr Mahathir Mohamad tweeted that “Muslims have a right to kill millions of French people for the massacres of the past”.

Here’s a roundup of reactions from world leaders and religious figures:

The Pope

The Pope has condemned the violence, saying terrorism is "never acceptable". He also said he will be praying for the victims.

"Today's attack has sown death in a place of love and consolation. The Pope is aware of the situation and is close to the mourning Catholic community," Vatican spokesman Matteo Bruni said in a statement.

"He prays for the victims and their loved ones, so that the violence may cease, so that we may return to look upon ourselves as brothers and sisters and not as enemies, so that the beloved French people may unite to combat evil with good", he said.

Recep Tayyip Erdoğan

A Turkish foreign ministry spokesman said: “No reason could legitimise or excuse killing someone or violence. Those who conducted this savage attack at a sacred place of worship do not clearly share any religious, humane or moral values.

"Turkey is in solidarity with French people as a nation who also lost her citizens to terrorism”.

Turkey's statement of “solidarity” comes after days of tensions between the country and France.

Mr Erdogan said Emmanuel Macron needed "some sort of mental treatment" over the weekend after the French president vowed to crack down on radical Islam.

"What is Macron's problem with Islam? What is his problem with Muslims?" Mr Erdogan said.

"European countries do not even feel the need to cover up their hatred toward Islam anymore," he added.

Ursula von der Leyen

The president of the EU commission has said she condemns “the heinous and brutal attack which [have] just taken place in Nice and am wholeheartedly with France. My thoughts are with the victims of this heinous act”. 

Ms von der Leyen shared her thoughts on Twitter.

Dr Mahathir Mohamad 

The former prime minister of Malaysia issued a scathing statement on Twitter, in which he said “Muslims have a right to be angry and to kill millions of French people for the massacres of the past”.

Dr Mohamed also called Emmanuel Macron “primitive” for blaming Islam and suggested that the way women dress in the West, as well as equality between the sexes, are values that are not necessarily compatible with the rest of the world.

This is not the first time Dr Mohamad has spoken out controversially. He previously referred to Jewish people as being "hook-nosed” and said that they “rule the world by proxy”.

Saudi Arabian Foreign Ministry

Saudi Arabia "strongly condemns" the attack, according to the kingdom's foreign ministry.

"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.

Giuseppe Conte 

Italy's prime minister has spoken out against the "vile attack" in France.

"The vile attack will not shake the common front defending the values of freedom and peace," Mr Conte posted on Twitter.

"Our convictions are stronger than fanaticism, hatred and terror."

Sam Hancock29 October 2020 14:12

An 18-year-old witness to the Nice attack told Zoe Tidman:

"I could hear people shouting while I was heading to my barbers. When I got there, I saw police closing the area off.

"Then shortly after, gunshots could be heard ringing throughout the church. They were surely shots from RAID [a french police unit].

"I started running out of fear. I waited on Avenue Jean Médecin for police."

French soldiers and policemen secure the site of the knife attack in Nice (AFP via Getty Images)
Sam Hancock29 October 2020 14:17

Adeel Shah, an Imam of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, told Sam Hancock:

"I feel deeply saddened to see my faith being hijacked by those who harbour no sentiments towards the peaceful religion of Islam.

“The attacks which occurred in Nice today and the brutal killing of Samuel Paty are against the teachings of Islam and should be condemned in the strongest form possible.”

Mr Shah also shared a statement given by Hazrat Mirza Masroor Ahmad, the worldwide head of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, regarding the attacks that occurred today and of Paty, in which Mr Masroor said:

“Such grievous attacks are completely against the teachings of Islam. Our religion does not permit terrorism or extremism under any circumstances and anyone who claims otherwise acts against the teachings of the Holy Quran and contrary to the noble character of the Holy Prophet of Islamsa.

“The fallout from this heinous act has further exacerbated the tensions between the Islamic world and the West, and between Muslims living in France and the rest of society. We consider this to be a source of deep regret and a means of further undermining the peace and stability of the world.”

He added: “We must all join together to root out all forms of extremism and to encourage mutual understanding and tolerance.”

Sam Hancock29 October 2020 14:40

Macron: ‘France was attacked by Islamist terrorists’

Emmanuel Macron has given a speech in Nice, at the scene of this morning’s attack, in which he said France was attacked by terrorists. 

The French president, standing among a group of colleagues, said: “If we are attacked, it is because of our values, our values of freedom and our desire not to yield to terror.”

Mr Macron, after pledging “support” and “unity” to French citizens and the Catholic community, also said there would be an increase of protection at churches.

A “deployment of soldiers [is] to be stepped up on French territory, stepping up protection of places of worship including churches,” Mr Macron said.

He announced he would be raising the number of troops deployed to 7,000, up from 3,000 currently on patrol.

Sam Hancock29 October 2020 14:53

Nice attacker is a 21-year-old man of Tunisian origin, French media says

The man accused of being behind this morning’s knife attack in Nice is reportedly a 21-year-old of Tunisian origin, according to French media.

He is believed to have arrived in France in early October.

No further details have been released about the assailant’s identity as yet.

Sam Hancock29 October 2020 15:44

A list of all the attacks France has suffered in the past five years

25 September 2020: Two people were stabbed and wounded near the former offices of the Charlie Hebdo satirical magazine, where Islamist militants carried out a deadly attack in 2015. A man originally from Pakistan was arrested over the attack.

3 October 2019: Mickael Harpon, a 45-year-old IT specialist with security clearance to work in the Paris police headquarters, killed three police officers and one civilian employee before being shot dead by police. He had converted to Islam about 10 years earlier.

23 March 2018: A gunman kills three people in southwestern France after holding up a car, firing on police and taking hostages in a supermarket, screaming "Allahu Akbar". Security forces storm the building and kill him.

26 July 2016: Two attackers kill a priest and seriously wound another hostage in a church in northern France before being shot dead by French police. Francois Hollande, who was France's president at the time, says the two hostage-takers had pledged allegiance to Islamic State.

14 July 2016: A gunman drives a heavy truck into a crowd celebrating Bastille Day in the French city of Nice, killing 86 people and injuring scores more in an attack claimed by Islamic State. The attacker is identified as a Tunisian-born Frenchman.

14 June 2016: A Frenchman of Moroccan origin stabs a police commander to death outside his home in a Paris suburb and kills his partner, who also worked for the police. The attacker told police negotiators during a siege that he was answering an appeal by Islamic State.

13 November 2015: Paris is rocked by multiple, near simultaneous gun-and-bomb attacks on entertainment sites around the city, in which 130 people are killed and 368 are wounded. Islamic State says it was responsible for the attacks. Two of the 10 known perpetrators were Belgian citizens and three others were French.

7-9 January 2015: Two Islamist militants break into an editorial meeting of satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo on 7 January and rake it with bullets, killing 12 people. Another militant kills a policewoman the next day and takes hostages at a supermarket on 9 January, killing four before police shoot him dead.


Sam Hancock29 October 2020 15:47

French consulate guard in Saudi Arabia attacked with knife

State television in Saudi Arabia reported that a Saudi man had been arrested in the Red Sea city of Jeddah after attacking and injuring a guard at the French consulate. The French embassy said the man was in hospital after a knife assault but his life was not in danger.

Jane Dalton29 October 2020 16:38

Don’t give in to division or terrorism, Macron tells France 

Emmanuel Macron has sent messages of support, standing firm against the “spirit of terrorism” to the people of Nice, where three people were killed by an attacker thought to have been an Islamist extremist.

The French president also told Catholics: “You have the support of the whole nation," adding: “Our country is our values, which everyone can believe or not believe, that each religion can be exercised. Our determination is absolute. Actions will follow to protect all of our fellow citizens.”

And to all French people, he tweeted: “Whatever your religion, believer or not, we must unite at these times. Do not give in to the spirit of division.”

Jane Dalton29 October 2020 16:54

America stands with ‘our oldest ally’, says Trump

Donald Trump has tweeted that “America stands with our oldest ally”, adding: “These Radical Islamic terrorist attacks must stop immediately. No country, France or otherwise can long put up with it!”

Jane Dalton29 October 2020 17:04

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