Terror probe launched after three killed by knifeman at church in France

29 October 2020, 12:04

France Attack
France Attack. Picture: PA

The suspect was injured and taken to a nearby hospital, police in the southern city of Nice said.

Three people have been killed in a knife attack at a church in France that authorities believe is linked to terrorism.

A suspect was arrested after the Thursday morning attack at the Notre Dame Church in Nice and taken to a nearby hospital after being injured by police as he was detained.

He was believed to be acting alone and police are not searching for other attackers, an official said.

The anti-terrorism prosecutor’s office said an investigation was opened into an attack with a terrorist connection.

Images on French media showed the neighbourhood locked down and surrounded by police and emergency vehicles. The killings took place less than half a mile from the site in 2016 where another attacker drive a truck into a Bastille Day crowd, killing dozens.

Nice knife attack
Mayor of Nice Christian Estrosi near the scene where a knife attack took place (Mayor of Nice’s Twitter feed/PA)

Sounds of explosions could be heard as sappers exploded suspicious objects.

The exact motive of the attack was unclear but it comes as France is under alert for acts of Islamic extremism.

Later in the morning in the southern city of Avignon an armed man was shot dead by police after he refused to drop his weapon and a Taser shot failed to stop him, a police official said.

And a Saudi state-run news agency said a man stabbed a guard at the French consulate in Jiddah, wounding the guard before he was arrested. It was not immediately clear if the incidents were linked to the attack in Nice.

There have been increased tensions in France over caricatures of the Muslim Prophet Mohammed published by satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo, and after two other recent attacks in the country with links to the cartoons.

Less than two weeks ago, an attacker decapitated a French middle school teacher who showed caricatures of the Prophet Mohammed for a class on free speech. Those caricatures were published by Charlie Hebdo and cited by the men who gunned down the newspaper’s editorial meeting in 2015.

In September, a man who had sought asylum in France attacked bystanders outside Charlie Hebdo’s former offices with a butcher knife.

France Attack
French police and firemen officers next to Notre Dame church after a knife attac (Alexis Gilli/AP)

The lower house of parliament suspended a debate on new virus restrictions and held a moment of silence Thursday for the victims.

The prime minister rushed from the hall to head to a crisis centre overseeing the aftermath of the attack.

Nice’s mayor Christian Estrosi said the attacker shouted “Allahu akbar!” repeatedly as police apprehended him and that “the meaning of his gesture left no doubt”.

Speaking to reporters in Nice, Mr Estrosi said two people were killed inside the church.

Mr Estrosi said in a tweet said the church caretaker was among those attacked at the Basilica Notre Dame.

He appealed to the citizens of Nice to remain united.

By Press Association