3 killed as knifemen shouting ‘Allahu Akbar’ behead woman in France

Policemen storm the church after gunshot were heard
Policemen storm the church after gunshot were heard

FRANCE is under siege as it was hit by two suspected terror attacks which left three dead – including a woman beheaded by a knifeman shouting “Allahu Akbar”.

Two separate knifemen are understood to have launched attacks in Nice and Avignon just hours apart amid a furious row over controversial cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed in France.

Three people were killed in a bloody rampage which saw a suspected terrorist storm the Basilica of Notre-Dame in Nice, south of France.

And then police confirmed a man shouting “Allahu Akbar” while brandishing a knife was shot dead 160 miles away in Avignon.

Meanwhile, a security guard at the French Consulate in Jeddah was stabbed and left with minor injuries.

France has raised its alert status to the highest possible level of “terror attack emergency” and Prime Minister Jean Castex said the government’s response will be “relentless and immediate”.

Eric Ciotti, a Republican politician and member of the French National Assembly, tweeted: “Attack in Nice, attack in Avignon, attack on the French consulate in Saudi Arabia.

“It is not a coincidence, the Islamists want to annihilate us! We must destroy the Islamists!!.”

One of the victims of the Nice attack – a woman, reportedly aged 70 – was reportedly decapitated inside the church.

It was widely reported in French media she was beheaded, and the city’s mayor also confirmed the nature of the injuries, as well as police sources speaking to Reuters.

The male victim who was stabbed to death is said to be the church’s 45-year-old sacristan, an officer charged with taking care of the church.

The third victim – a also woman – reportedly managed to escape and took refuge in a nearby bar where she succumbed to her injuries, reports BFMTV.

What we know so far:

  • Three dead – two beheaded – in suspected terror attack at Basilica of Notre-Dame in Nice, France
  • Suspect has been named as “Brahim A” – reportedly a 25-year-old Tunisian
  • Knifeman shouting “Allahu Akbar” has shot dead in Avignon after threatening police
  • Security guard stabbed by attacker at the French consulate in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia
  • Attacks follow double stabbing in Paris and the beheading of teacher Charles Paty
  • France has provoked fury over its refusal to condemn cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed published by Charlie Hebdo
  • Mass protests have been seen in many Muslim countries and calls for boycotts of French goods

Armed cops stormed Notre Dame – the largest Roman Catholic church in Nice – and shot the suspected terrorist, wounding him at around 9am local time.

Nice mayor Christian Estrosi said the attacker kept shouting “Allahu Akbar” even after he had been shot – and said it had all the hallmarks of a “terror attack”.

He said: “Enough is enough. 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.”

Police sources said the suspect gave his name as Brahim A and his age as 25, while Nice-Matin reports he is from Tunisia and not known to authorities.

Mr Ciotti claimed the man recently arrived in France after travelling from Lampedusa, an Italian island known as a landing point for migrants from Tunisia.

It comes amid heightened security fears in France due to the ongoing row over cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed published by satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo.

And the two attacks have also happened as Muslims celebrate the holy day Mawlid, which marks the birth of Mohammed.

Samuel Paty, 47, was beheaded by 18-year-old Abdullah Anzorov on October 17 after using the cartoons to teach his students about the importance of free speech.

Mayor Estrosi said the victims had been killed in a “horrible way” and added: “The methods match, without doubt, those used against the brave teacher”.

He also called for churches around France to be given extra protection or closed as a precaution.

Daniel Conilh, a 32-year-old waiter at the Grand Cafe de Lyon, a block from the church, said it was shortly before 9am when “shots were fired and everybody took off running.”

“A woman came in straight from the church and said, ‘Run, run, someone has been stabbing people’,” he told AFP

Another witness told Nice-Matin: “I saw a guy come out like crazy from the church, running.

“Within thirty seconds, between four and six city policemen chased.”

One local told BFMTV: “I was selling croissants when a man came in and said to me: ‘Monsieur, there’s a decapitated woman in the cathedral’.

“I didn’t believe him at first but he repeated it. I went to the cathedral and saw the municipal police and called to them. They came quickly.”

France is experiencing a new wave of terror attacks, and President Emmanuel Macron has pledged to take a tough line on Islamic extremism.

The latest attack on Nice also comes after 86 people were killed in the city when a terrorist rammed a 19-tonne cargo truck through crowds on Bastille Day in July 2016.

And the bloodshed in the church is a chilling echo of the murder of 85-year-old priest Jacques Hamel, who had his throat slit by two extremists at his church in Normandy that same month.

It follows both the murder of Paty and the stabbing of two people outside the former offices of Charlie Hebdo in Paris.

Explosions were heard as the bomb squad detonated suspicious items found inside the church.

The French anti-terrorist prosecutor’s department said it had been asked to investigate the attack.

It said attacker is suspected of assassination in connection with a terrorist enterprise and criminal terrorist association.

Terror in France

France has seen hundreds of people killed in terror attacks over the last five years.

  • January 7, 2015 – Two gunmen break into satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo’s offices and killed 12 people.
  • January 9, 2015 – Terrorist kills a policewoman before taking hostages at a supermarket – killing four before police shot him dead.
  • November 13, 2015 – Paris rocked by multiple gun and bomb attacks which saw 130 people killed and 368 wounded.
  • June 14, 2016 – Police commander and his partner stabbed to death outside his home in a Paris suburb.
  • July 14, 2016 – Gunman drives a heavy truck into a crowd celebrating Bastille Day in Nice, killing 86 people and injuring scores more.
  • July 26, 2016 – Two attackers butcher a priest and seriously wound another hostage in a church in Normandy
  • March 23, 2018 – Gunman kills three people in southwestern France after holding up a car, firing on police and taking hostages in a supermarket.
  • October 3, 2019 – IT specialist with security clearance to work in the Paris police headquarter, kills three police officers and one civilian employee.
  • September 24, 2020 – Two people stabbed and wounded in Paris near the former offices of the Charlie Hebdo
  • October 16, 2020 – School teacher Samuel Paty beheaded on the street of a Paris suburb after showing his pupils cartoons of the Prophet Mohammad in a class on freedom of expression.
  • October 29, 2020 – Three people killed, including a woman being beheaded, at the Basilica of Notre-Dame in Nice – while on the same day a knifeman is shot dead in Avignon.

Macron visited the scene with Mayor Estrosi, while France’s National Assembly observed a minute’s silence in solidarity with the victims.

British Prime Minister Brois Johnson tweeted: “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.”

UK foreign secretary Dominic Raab said: “The UK stands with France today in sorrow, shock and solidarity at the horrifying events in Nice.

“Our thoughts are with the victims and their families and we offer every support to the French people in pursuing those responsible for this appalling attack.”

Italian leader Giuseppe Conte also condemned the “vile attack”- and said it “will not shake the common front defending the values of freedom and peace.”

He added: “Our convictions are stronger than fanaticism, hatred and terror.”

A representative of the French Council for the Muslim Faith strongly condemned the attack.

In a statement, they said: “As a sign of mourning and solidarity with the victims and their loved ones, I call on all Muslims in France to cancel all the celebrations of the holiday of Mawlid.”

Pope Francis prayed for the victims of an attack by a knifeman in a Nice church Thursday, as the Vatican said “terrorism and violence can never be accepted”.

France has provoked the ire of nations such as Iran and Turkey as it has taken a tough line in defending the controversial cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed.

History teacher Paty was was posthumously given the Legion d’Honneur – France’s highest award – and French president Emmanuel Macron insisted the country would “not give up our cartoons”.

Prophet Mohammed cartoons have been displayed in France in solidarity with Paty to defend what many in the country see as its values of free speech and secularism.

Macron has said he would redouble efforts to stop conservative Islamic beliefs subverting French values – which has angered many Muslims.

France has launched a crackdown on what it perceives to be radical Islam, announcing it has searched more than 120 homes and closed down a mosque in Pantin.

Paty is being seen as a champion of free speech by many in France after his brutal death – inspiring the defiant phrase “Je Suis Prof”.

The image he showed to students was the same one published by Charlie Hebdo that sparked the attack on the magazine’s offices that killed 12.

Nine people – including members of the attacker’s family – have been arrested over his death.

His killing came after another knife attack near the former offices of Charlie Hebdo just weeks prior – in which the suspect is believed to have tried to target the magazine.

Just yesterday, Iranian president Hassan Rouhani warned the row over the cartoons could lead to “violence and bloodshed”.

He said: “It’s a surprise that this would come from those claiming culture and democracy, that they would somehow, even if unintentionally, encourage violence and bloodshed.”

Rouhani added: “Westerners must understand the great Prophet of Islam is loved by all Muslims and freedom-lovers of the world.

“Insulting the Prophet is insulting all Muslims. Insulting the Prophet is insulting all prophets, human values, and amounts to undermining ethic.”

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