Macron vows to deploy soldiers across France after attacks in Nice and Avignon

Police confirm to The Independent two women and one man killed

Zoe Tidman,Lizzie Dearden
Friday 30 October 2020 01:40 GMT
Armed police enter church in Nice following multiple stabbings
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Emmanuel Macron has vowed to step up military presence across France following a deadly attack at a church in Nice.

A woman beheaded and two others killed in a Nice church while a far-right gunman was shot dead in Avignon. A guard was also injured at the French consulate in Saudi Arabia.

Three people were killed in an attack on the Basilica of Notre-Dame in Nice, all of whom had their throats cut, a police spokesperson told The Independent, adding another person was left injured.

Local sources named one of the victims as Vincent Loques, 55, sexton of the Notre-Dame. A 60-year-old woman was beheaded while a younger woman who was stabbed managed to make it to a cafe across the street, where she died from her wounds, France's chief anti-terrorist prosecutor Jean-Francois Ricard said. A 44-year-old woman was also seriously injured.

Mr Macron declared that France had been subject to an Islamist terrorist attack and said he would deploy thousands more soldiers to protect French sites, such as places of worship and schools. After the Nice attack, the prime minister raised France’s security alert to its highest level.

Around 250km (155 miles) away in Avignon, a gunman was shot dead after brandishing a weapon at passers-by. A police spokesperson told The Independent he had claimed he belonged to far-right group Mouvance Identitaire. He was killed after he refused to drop his weapon and a flash-ball shot failed to stop him, the official said.

On the same day, a man was arrested after attacking and injuring a guard at the French consulate in Jeddah, in Saudi Arabia.

Anti-terrorism investigators are looking into the attack inside the Basilica of Notre-Dame, which claimed the life of the churchwarden, according to Christian Estrosi, Nice’s mayor.

The suspect kept shouting “Allahu Akbar” even after he had been arrested by police, the city’s mayor told reporters, adding the attacker continued to shout this while receiving medical treatment at the scene.

One witness told The Independent they were on their way to the barbers when they heard people shouting. “I saw police closing the area off,” the 18-year-old said. “Then shortly after, gunshots could be heard ringing throughout the church.” They then started “running out of fear”.

Nice’s mayor said the suspected attacker was shot by police while being detained and was taken to hospital.

Mr Ricard said the suspect is a 21-year-old Tunisian who reached the Italian island of Lampedusa, a key landing point for migrants crossing in boats from north Africa, on 20 September and travelled to Paris on 9 October.

A Tunisian security source and a French police source named the suspect as Brahim Aouissaoui. Along with a 30cm knife he used to conduct his attack, police said Aouissaoui had been in possession of two more blades, a copy of the Koran and two telephones.

Mr Ricard told a news conference in Nice that the man had entered the city by train early yesterday morning and made his way to the church. The suspect is in hospital in a critical condition, he said.

“The methods match, without doubt, those used against the brave teacher in Conflans Sainte Honorine, Samuel Paty,” Mr Estrosi said, referring to the French teacher beheaded earlier this month in an attack in a suburb of Paris after showing pupils cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad first published by Charlie Hebdo. “France has once again become the victim of Islamic terrorism … There is no doubt as to his intentions behind his actions.”

Speaking from the scene, Mr Macron 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.”

People light candles near the entrance of the Basilica of Notre Dame in Nice

Isis has not claimed responsibility for the attack in Nice, but featured a photo of the emergency response in its weekly propaganda newspaper, which was published on Thursday night.

The image topped a long article calling for further attacks in France and against French interests globally, referencing Charlie Hebdo cartoons and calling for revenge for the “mockery” of the Prophet Muhammad.

Isis called for violence against French people and companies, instead of boycotts and protests, claiming that a “real threat to lives” could force authorities to ban similar publications and stop “provoking Muslims”.

It came a week after another Isis propaganda article praising the murder of teacher Samuel Paty and calling for new attacks on “crusaders".

Several jihadist groups, including al-Qaeda and the Afghan Taliban, have also released propaganda attacking France over the cartoons and its response to the murder of Mr Paty, prompting fears of a fresh wave of attacks.

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