Woman Beheaded, 2 Others Killed In Knife Attack At French Church


Thursday, October 29th 2020, 7:46 am
By: Associated Press, CBS News


An attacker beheaded one person and killed two others at a church in the French city of Nice on Thursday, French police and officials said. The country was already on high alert for extremist violence amid tensions over caricatures of the Muslim Prophet Muhammad published by satirical French magazine, Charlie Hebdo. 

During Thursday's attack, the assailant reportedly cried out "Allahu Akbar," Nice's mayor, Christian Estrosi, said. The attacker, who was injured while being arrested, was taken to a nearby hospital, a police official said. He was believed to have been acting alone.

There have been other recent attacks in France with links to the Charlie Hebdo cartoons. France has now raised its security threat level to the highest available.

Estrosi said the attacker shouted "Allahu akbar!" (God is greatest) repeatedly as police apprehended him and that "the meaning of his gesture left no doubt," Reuters reported.

Estrosi told French broadcaster BFM TV that one of the people who was killed in the church, a woman, was beheaded. Another woman and a man were also killed.

Images on French media showed the neighborhood locked down and surrounded by police and emergency vehicles. Sounds of explosions could be heard as sappers blew up suspicious objects.

The French Council of the Muslim Faith condemned the attack and expressed solidarity with the victims and the victims' families. The lower house of France's parliament suspended a debate on new virus restrictions and held a moment of silence.

Context

Earlier this month, a teacher, Samuel Paty, was beheaded after showing a controversial cartoon of the Prophet Muhammad published in the satirical magazine, Charlie Hebdo, to some of his pupils as part of a lesson on freedom of expression.

The cartoon upset many in the Muslim world, and Paty's murder heightened tensions in France, sparking countrywide rallies in support of freedom of speech. An anti-Islamist statement by Emmanuel Macron in the aftermath of that attack prompted calls across the Muslim world — led by Turkey — to boycott French goods. France reacted by recalling its ambassador in Ankara.

A subsequent cartoon published in Charlie Hebdo mocking Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan was accused by Turkish officials of "the seeds of hatred and animosity."

Turkey issued a statement on Thursday strongly condemning the attack in Nice and saying it stands in solidarity with French people against terrorism and violence.

The coastal city of Nice was the site of one of France's deadliest terror attacks in recent years, when, in 2016, 86 people were killed by a 31-year-old Tunisian man driving a truck through a crown of people celebrating Bastille Day. A few days after that, a priest, Father Jacques Hamel, was attacked and had his throat slit at a church in Rouen during morning mass.

First published on October 29, 2020 / 5:57 AM

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