News Three dead in French church knife attack that mayor declares as terrorism

Three dead in French church knife attack that mayor declares as terrorism

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An attacker with a knife has killed at least three people, including a woman who was decapitated, at a church in the French city of Nice, police say.

The city’s mayor Christian Estrosi said of the shocking incident that “Everything suggest a terrorist attack” and that the attacker allegedly shouted “Allahu Akbar”.

Mayor Estrosi said on Twitter that Thursday’s knife attack had happened in or near the city’s Notre Dame Catholic church, and that police had detained the attacker.

Police said three people were confirmed to have died in the attack and several others were injured.

A police source said a woman was decapitated, while far-right politician Marine Le Pen also spoke of a decapitation having occurred in the attack.

Police shot the suspect, who was detained and taken to hospital.

President Emmanuel Macron reportedly rushed to a crisis centre overseeing the aftermath of the attack.

The city of Nice suffered one of France’s deadliest attacks in July 2016, when a 31-year-old Tunisian drove a truck into crowds celebrating Bastille Day, killing 86 people.

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

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

It was not immediately clear what the motive was for the Nice attack, or if there was any connection to the cartoons, which Muslims consider to be blasphemous.

Nice’s Notre Dame church is believed to be the scene of the country’s latest tragedy. Photo: Twitter

Since Mr Paty’s killing, French officials – backed by many ordinary citizens – have reasserted 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 French leader Emmanuel Macron of pursuing an anti-Islam agenda.

The country’s Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin appealed to people to avoid the area in the centre of the French Riviera city.

Mr Darmanin said he was convening a crisis meeting at the ministry in Paris when the news broke.

BBC reports that a minute’s silence was held in the National Assembly, where Prime Minister Jean Castex had just been giving details of lockdown measures coming into force on Thursday night.

“Without question this is a very serious new challenge that is striking our country,” he said, appealing for unity and cohesion.