Six people were also injured in the bloody attack with a knife. A police insider says the attacker beheaded one of his victims, a woman. The authorities have not yet confirmed this. The perpetrator entered the church around nine o’clock this morning, where he started stabbing around him.
At 9.10 am he was shot by the police and then taken to hospital. The circumstances are reminiscent of a terrorist attack, Mayor Christian Estrosi responded.
The perpetrator, according to the usually well-established French news agency AFP Brahim Aoussaoui, would have arrived as a migrant on the Italian island of Lampedusa in September. After a period of quarantine, he was released with the message that he had to leave Italy. He then arrived in France in October.
The news that the attacker in Italy has entered Europe has now also landed in that country. Lega leader Matteo Salvini is calling on Twitter for the resignation of the Italian interior minister.
We have to stop letting people in unscreened without knowing that they may develop into potential terrorists, says Telegraaf reporter Wierd Duk in a new podcast:
One of the victims killed in the church is said to be the sexton of the church, Estrosi said. One of the other victims, a 70-year-old woman, allegedly tried to escape the attack. She fled to a nearby bar opposite the church where she died of her injuries, the local newspaper Nice Matin reports.
The street where the church is located is closed and businesses in the area have been evacuated and closed.
Eyewitness: ‘Run, run; people are being stabbed ‘
The attack led to panic reactions in the area. A 32-year-old employee of a nearby catering business says that shots were fired shortly before 9 a.m. on Thursday. Then people ran to flee. “A woman came out of the church and said, run, run, someone is stabbing people,” the waiter of the Grand Cafe de Lyon told AFP news agency.
When the perpetrator struck, according to a clergyman, there was no mass. The church does open its doors as early as 8:00 am so that people can come and pray “at all times”, says father Philippe Asso.
The authorities are calling on people to stay away from the center of Nice. They are looking for possible explosives.
The man struck at the Notre Dame Basilica in the center of Nice. The city was badly hit by a terror attack in 2016 during the national holiday July 14. Mohammed Lahouaiej Bouhlel then killed 86 people with a freezer truck.
Attacker kept saying ‘Allahu akbar’
Mayor Christian Estrosi of Nice visited the site of the attack on Thursday morning. “Everything points to a terrorist attack at Notre Dame Basilica,” he also said on Twitter. According to Mayor Estrosi, the perpetrator kept shouting ‘Allahu Akbar’ (God is the greatest), even when he was being treated by the emergency services after being shot by the police. That said Mayor Christian Estrosi after the arrest of the alleged Muslim extremist.
In a special episode of the podcast ‘Het land van Wierd Duk’, ex-terrorist Jason Walters rings the alarm. “If we do not tackle Muslim extremism now, Europe will switch to the extreme right.”
“Enough is enough,” said Estrosi. “It is now time for Islamofascism to be permanently expelled from our territory.”
He advocates guarding or temporarily shutting down churches across the country. The mayor also announced that President Emmanuel Macron is expected in his city shortly.
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Less than two weeks ago, teacher Samuel Paty was beheaded in the Parisian suburb of Conflans-Sainte-Honorine after showing Mohammed cartoons from Charlie Hebdo in class. Terrorist Abdoullakh Anzorov targeted a teacher, this morning the culprit targeted a church. Both places symbolize the Western way of life, and are therefore a target for terrorist organizations.
Prime Minister Jean Castex spoke this morning before the French Lower House about the new anti-corona measures. He has left the Assmblée Nationale for crisis consultations at the Ministry of the Interior.
Highest threat level
After the terror attack in the southern French coastal town, France has gone to the highest threat level. Prime Minister Castex announced this.
France has three threat levels. Even after the attack on the Christmas market in Strasbourg two years ago, the highest level was still valid.
Security at places of worship is now being increased, the Interior Ministry said. President Macron will lead a meeting of the National Security Council on Friday.
Bells ring in tribute
Shortly after the attack, a minute’s silence was immediately held for the victims in the French Lower House, the National Assembly, according to French media.
Church bells ring in tribute to the victims of the attack on a church in Nice on Thursday afternoon at 3 p.m. This was announced by the Catholic bishops of the country.
“These people have been attacked and murdered for being in the basilica,” the Conference of Bishops of France said in a statement. “Our entire country is the victim of these heinous acts,” say the bishops. But according to them, Catholics will not give in to fear and, along with the entire country, will face this “insidious threat.”