Mayor Christian Estrosi suggested that terror may have played a role
(SOURCE) One woman was reportedly decapitated and two other people were stabbed to death on Thursday following a knife attack at a church in the French city of Nice that also left several others wounded, according to multiple reports.
“Enough is enough,” Estrosi told local reporters, according to Reuters. “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.”
He added that two people were killed inside the city’s Notre Dame Basilica and a third person who escaped to a nearby bar later died.
Thursday’s incident marked the third attack in France in less than two months since a terrorism trial opened in September related to the January 2015 killings at the satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo and a kosher supermarket.
Thursday also marked the Prophet Muhammed’s birthday this year.
The incident comes as France is currently under alert for Islamic extremist acts. It occurred nearly two weeks after a French middle school teacher, Samuel Paty, was beheaded by a man of Chechen origin near Paris.
The 18-year-old suspect, who was killed after he didn’t respond to requests to drop his weapon, had said he wanted to punish Paty for showing pupils cartoons of the Prophet Mohammad in a civics lesson on free speech, Reuters reported.
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.
About 154 miles away from Nice, French police on Thursday shot a man dead in Montfavet, near the city of Avignon in the south of France, for allegedly threatening a passerby with a handgun, Reuters reported, citing local media reports. According to French radio station Europe 1, the man had yelled, “Allahu Akbar.”
Tensions have been rising between France and the Muslim world, which considers cartoons of the Prophet Muhammed blasphemous.
Images of the prophet have been widely displayed in marches and protests since Paty’s slaying, as French officials and citizens alike reassert their freedom of expression. France has also since expelled 231 foreigners for suspected Islamic extremist beliefs, prompting Erdogan and others in the Muslim world to accuse Macron of promoting an “anti-Islam agenda”
An estimated six million Muslims live in France, the largest population in Western Europe, which has created increasing challenges in the republic formed on strict secular principles known as “laïcité.” In the eulogy at Paty’s funeral, Macron defended France’s secularism and vowed that the country would not give up its liberties or its cartoons.
“We will continue, professor. We will defend the freedom that you taught so well and we will promote secularism, we will not renounce caricatures, drawings, even if others retreat,” Macron said earlier this month. “We will continue the fight for freedom and the freedom of which you are now the face.”
A Saudi man was also arrested Thursday in the city of Jiddah for allegedly using a “sharp tool” to stab and slightly wound a guard at the French consulate, Reuters reported, citing Saudi state TV. France alerted its citizens to be on “high alert.”
The Kremlin responded Thursday to the recent beheadings in France, saying it was unacceptable to kill people, but also wrong to insult the feelings of religious believers, according to Reuters.
Macron delivered a speech before the teacher was killed outlining a legislative proposal to fight what he described as “Islamic separatism,” arguing Muslims in France risked forming a “counter-society.” Macron defined Islam as “a religion that is in crisis today all over the world” and said the proposal, if approved by Parliament, would aim “to build an Islam in France that can be compatible with the Enlightenment.”
The diplomatic dispute with Erdogan also comes as tensions between NATO allies France and Turkey have intensified in recent months over issues that include the fighting in Syria, Libya and Nagorno-Karabakh, a region within Azerbaijan that is controlled by ethnic Armenian separatists. Macron has accused Turkey of flouting its commitments by ramping up its military presence in Libya and bringing in jihadi fighters from Syria.
The Associated Press contributed to this report