Terror has returned to France again this morning after a knifeman attacked and killed three people in Nice’s Basilica of Notre-Dame. An elderly female parishioner in her seventies and a male church warden and father of two are believed to be among the dead. A woman in her forties was also killed in the attack.
The city’s mayor Christian Estrosi described the incident as a ‘terrorist attack’ and claimed that the suspect had ‘repeated endlessly 'Allahu Akbar'’. The suspected attacker was shot by police before being arrested.
The incident took place only a few hundred metres from where 86 people were killed when a lorry driver ploughed into crowds celebrating Bastille Day in 2016. It also comes just a few weeks after a high school teacher was decapitated in Paris after he showed images of the prophet Muhammed to pupils. French president Emmanuel Macron – whose targeting of radical Islam has sparked protests around the world – is travelling to Nice and is expected to make a statement shortly.
Boris Johnson said, in a tweet in French, that he was 'shocked' after the 'barbaric attack'. 'Our thoughts are with the victims and their families, and the UK stands alongside France in the fight against terror and intolerance,' he wrote.
French prime minister Jean Castex said the government's response will be 'firm, implacable and immediate', while former president François Holland said:
‘Once again, Nice is struck by barbarism, once again France is attacked by Islamist terrorism. Democracy is our weapon, it will always be the strongest against its enemies. I express my full solidarity to the families of the victims and to all Christians.’
Marine Le Pen described the attack as an ‘act of war’. She said:
‘Me and my colleagues are particularly moved, and more convinced than ever that the measures chosen today are not the right ones, not sufficient, they are not individual acts of barbarians, it is not true, they are acts of war, which are carried out on the basis of an ideology.'
The Conference of Bishops of France (CEF) described the knife attack as ‘unspeakable’. Father Hugues de Woillemont, the spokesman of the CEF, said: ‘There is an urgency to fight this gangrene that is terrorism, just as there is an urgency to put in place a concrete fraternity in our country.’
Elsewhere in France this morning, a man who attempted to attack police in Avignon was shot dead by police at 11.15am.