Paris: A knife-wielding attacker allegedly shouting “Allahu Akbar” beheaded a woman and killed two other people in a suspected terrorist incident at a church in the French city of Nice on Thursday. Also Read - France Plans Hefty Punishment Against Those Issuing 'Virginity Certificate' For Marriage
One person has been arrested so far, Nice Mayor Christian Estrosi confirmed, adding that the incident was a “terrorist attack at the heart of the Notre-Dame basilica”. Also Read - France's COVID-19 Daily Infections Top 60,000, an All-time High
Prime Minister Narendra Modi condemned the attacks and assured of India’s solidarity with France against terrorism. Also Read - After Attacks in Austria & France, Britain's Terrorism Threat Level Raised to 'Severe'
“I strongly condemn the recent terrorist attacks in France, including today’s heinous attack in Nice inside a church. Our deepest and heartfelt condolences to the families of the victims and the people of France. India stands with France in the fight against terrorism,” he said in a tweet.
Estrosi said the attacker had repeatedly shouted the phrase “Allahu Akbar” (God is greatest), even after being detained by police.
“The suspected knife attacker was shot by police while being detained, he is on his way to hospital, he is alive,” Estrosi told reporters.
“Enough is enough,” Estrosi said. “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.”
Sources at the scene said police armed with automatic weapons had put up a security cordon around the church, which is on Nice’s Jean Medecin avenue, the city’s main shopping thoroughfare. Ambulances and fire service vehicles were also at the scene.
French President Emmanuel Macron is due to visit Nice, Estrosi said.
Meanwhile, a minute’s silence was observed in the National Assembly, where Prime Minister Jean Castex was detailing the nationwide lockdown, which will come into force on Thursday night.
“Without question this is a very serious new challenge that is striking our country,” Castex was quoted as saying.
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 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.
Since Paty’s killing, French officials – backed by many ordinary citizens – have re-asserted 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.
(With agency inputs)