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France terror attacks: Three killed in Nice before gunman shot in Avignon

France has been struck by two terror attacks within hours of each other as three people were killed – two of them beheaded – in an attack in Nice before a gunman was shot dead by police in Avignon.  

The first attack began around 9am at the Notre Dame cathedral in Nice where a knifeman beheaded an elderly female parishioner and a male church warden, fatally stabbed a second woman, wounded several others, and was then shot and arrested by police. 

Two hours later, a gunman threatened people on the streets of Avignon – 120 miles from Nice – while shouting ‘Allahu Akbar’ before he was fatally shot by police. 

Elsewhere, a security guard at the French consulate in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, was also stabbed and wounded. The guard was taken to hospital with non-life-threatening injuries.  

The attacks come amid fury across the Islamic world at President Macron for defending satirical cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed and during the Mawlid Festival, when Muslims celebrate the Prophet’s birthday.

It also comes less than two weeks after a schoolteacher, Samuel Paty, was beheaded north of Paris for showing cartoons of the Prophet to his class in a lesson on free speech. 

In the Nice attack, the elderly female victim was attacked after coming there early to pray and was found ‘almost beheaded’ close to the church font. A church warden was then attacked and also beheaded. 

A third woman was stabbed ‘multiple times’ and managed to flee to a bar across the street, where she died. A local called police, who arrived at 9.10am and stormed the cathedral, shooting and arresting the attacker. 

The mayor of Nice said two of the victims died inside the cathedral - a woman and a male church warden, both of whom were beheaded (pictured, police and forensic examiners outside the church)

The mayor of Nice said two of the victims died inside the cathedral - a woman and a male church warden, both of whom were beheaded (pictured, police and forensic examiners outside the church)

The mayor of Nice said two of the victims died inside the cathedral – a woman and a male church warden, both of whom were beheaded (pictured, police and forensic examiners outside the church)

Police storm the cathedral

Police storm the cathedral

Police storm the cathedral

Police storm the cathedral

Police swarmed the area around 9am, running into the cathedral before the attacker was shot and arrested. Mayor Christian Estrosi said the attacker kept shouting Allahu Akbar even after being medicated

A wounded person is taken away from the scene

A wounded person is taken away from the scene

A wounded person is taken away from the scene

A wounded person is taken away from the scene

At least three people have been killed – two of them beheaded – and several more stabbed in a terror attack at the Notre Dame cathedral in the French city of Nice (pictured, a wounded person is taken from the scene)

Scene of the attack

Scene of the attack

Scene of the attack

Scene of the attack

The attack began around 9am just as Mass was getting underway at the cathedral, the largest Roman Catholic church in Nice 

Police quickly swarmed the area where they shot and arrested the attacker, who has been taken to a local hospital

Police quickly swarmed the area where they shot and arrested the attacker, who has been taken to a local hospital

Police quickly swarmed the area where they shot and arrested the attacker, who has been taken to a local hospital

A security officer secures the area after a reported knife attack at Notre Dame church in Nice

A security officer secures the area after a reported knife attack at Notre Dame church in Nice

A security officer secures the area after a reported knife attack at Notre Dame church in Nice

The attacker is a man in his 20s who gave his name as Ibrahim while being arrested, Le Figaro reported. His identity is being checked by police.  

Nice Mayor Christian Estrosi said the attacker ‘kept shouting Allahu Akbar even after being medicated’, and that ‘the meaning of his gesture is not in doubt’. 

‘Enough is enough,’ he said. ‘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.’

Estrosi said the victims had been killed in a ‘horrible way’. ‘The methods match, without doubt, those used against the brave teacher in Conflans Sainte Honorine, Samuel Paty,’ he said.

He also called for churches around France to be given extra protection or closed as a precaution. 

The attack happened less than half a mile from where another attacker plowed a truck into a Bastille Day crowd in 2016, killing dozens. 

Police confirmed that the anti-terror prosecutor has been charged with carrying out the investigation on charges of murder and attempted murder. 

Emmanuel Macron led an emergency cabinet meeting on the attack, before leaving for Nice, where he is expected to arrive shortly. 

French politicians were taking part in a debate on the country’s new coronavirus restrictions when news of the attack reached them.  

They observed a minute of silence before the debate broke up so an emergency security meeting could be held. 

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

The Catholic Church issued a statement, condemning the ‘unspeakable act’ and saying that ‘Christians must not become a symbol to be cut down.’ 

The French Council of Muslim Worship also issued a statement strongly condemning the attack.

‘As a sign of mourning and solidarity with the victims and their relatives, I call on the Muslims of France to cancel all the festivities of the Mawlid feast,’ which takes place on October 28 and 29. 

The attack is just the latest to strike France, after history teacher Samuel Paty was beheaded in another attack north of Paris.

Paty was stabbed by an 18-year-old Chechen after he showed the cartoons to his students during a lesson on free speech.

A security officer guards the area after a reported knife attack at Notre Dame church in Nice

A security officer guards the area after a reported knife attack at Notre Dame church in Nice

A security officer guards the area after a reported knife attack at Notre Dame church in Nice

French policemen stand guard a street after a knife attack in Nice

French policemen stand guard a street after a knife attack in Nice

French policemen stand guard a street after a knife attack in Nice

French policemen and firefighters stand guard a street after a knife attack in Nice

French policemen and firefighters stand guard a street after a knife attack in Nice

French policemen and firefighters stand guard a street after a knife attack in Nice

The attack is thought to have begun around 9am before police were called, and arrested the perpetrator. The area is now cordoned off

The attack is thought to have begun around 9am before police were called, and arrested the perpetrator. The area is now cordoned off

The attack is thought to have begun around 9am before police were called, and arrested the perpetrator. The area is now cordoned off

Armed police approach the church where the attack is thought to have started during Mass

Armed police approach the church where the attack is thought to have started during Mass

Armed police approach the church where the attack is thought to have started during Mass

Armed police are seen on the streets of Nice after the attack early on Thursday

Armed police are seen on the streets of Nice after the attack early on Thursday

Armed police are seen on the streets of Nice after the attack early on Thursday

The attack took place at the Notre Dame basilica in Nice, the largest Roman Catholic church in the city

The attack took place at the Notre Dame basilica in Nice, the largest Roman Catholic church in the city

The attack took place at the Notre Dame basilica in Nice, the largest Roman Catholic church in the city

Parents of pupils at the school had led a campaign against him, before the attack took place. Seven have been arrested.  

Just a few weeks earlier, an 18-year-old Pakistani stabbed a wounded two people outside the old offices of satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo.

The man has admitted to police that he was targeting the magazine for publishing cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed.  

UN extremism official blasts ‘inflammatory’ Charlie Hebdo cartoons

The head of a UN anti-extremism body expressed ‘deep concern’ Wednesday about growing tensions over satirical cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed, urging ‘mutual respect’ between people.

The statement by Miguel Angel Moratinos – who heads the United Nations Alliance of Civilizations – follows growing anger in the Muslim world over France’s response to the beheading of a teacher who had shown his pupils the images as part of a class on free speech.

President Emmanuel Macron has vigorously defended the publication of cartoons depicting the Prophet Mohammed on free speech grounds, sparking angry protests across swathes of the Muslim world and campaigns to boycott French products.

The UN High Representative ‘is following with deep concern the growing tensions and instances of intolerance triggered by the publication of the satirical caricatures depicting Prophet Mohammed,’ a spokesman said.

‘The inflammatory caricatures have also provoked acts of violence against innocent civilians who were attacked for their sheer religion, belief or ethnicity.

‘Insulting religions and sacred religious symbols provokes hatred and violent extremism leading to polarization and fragmentation of the society.’

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It also comes amid mass protests in many Islamic countries against Emmanuel Macron, after the French President spoke up in defence of the cartoons. 

Tweeting in Arabic, he wrote: ‘Nothing makes us hold back, ever. We respect all differences in the spirit of peace. We never accept hate speech and defend rational debate. 

‘We will always stand by human dignity and universal values.’ 

His remarks have prompted demonstrations in Gaza, Turkey, Pakistan and Bangladesh, and boycotts of French products in Jordan, Kuwait, Qatar and Palestinian territories.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has led outrage at Macron, suggesting that he is mentally ill and needs to have his health evaluated.

The Islamic world’s anger at France deepened on Wednesday as Turkey condemned a Charlie Hebdo cartoon showing its president Recep Tayyip Erdogan lifting a woman’s burka to look at her naked backside. 

Erdogan called the cartoonists ‘scoundrels’ and accused the West of wanting to ‘relaunch the Crusades’ by attacking Islam after the image appeared on the front of this week’s magazine.  

‘I don’t need to say anything to those scoundrels who insult my beloved prophet on such a scale,’ Erdogan said, calling it a ‘disgusting attack’. 

Showing Erdogan in a T-shirt and underpants, the caricature has Erdogan saying ‘Ooh, the Prophet’ as he looks at the woman’s backside, and comes with the caption: ‘Erdogan – in private he’s very funny’.

A Charlie Hebdo cartoon showing the naked Prophet’s backside was the image which French school teacher Samuel Paty showed to his class in the lesson which led to his murder and beheading earlier this month. 

French president Emmanuel Macron has staunchly defended free expression and the right to mock religion in the wake of the terror attack, but has become a target of anger in the Islamic world. 

Turkey has vowed to take ‘legal, diplomatic actions’ in response to the cartoon while Pakistan’s PM Imran Khan called for an end to ‘attacks on Islam’, saying the West should be willing to treat blasphemy in the same way as Holocaust denial. 

Meanwhile Iran’s president Hassan Rouhani also took aim at France today by warning that insulting the Prophet would encourage ‘violence and bloodshed’. 

French politicians were taking part in a coronavirus lockdown debate when the news reached them - and held a minute of silence in the chamber (pictured)

French politicians were taking part in a coronavirus lockdown debate when the news reached them - and held a minute of silence in the chamber (pictured)

French politicians were taking part in a coronavirus lockdown debate when the news reached them – and held a minute of silence in the chamber (pictured)

French police officers stand at a security perimeter following a knife attack at the Notre Dame Basilica church in Nice

French police officers stand at a security perimeter following a knife attack at the Notre Dame Basilica church in Nice

French police officers stand at a security perimeter following a knife attack at the Notre Dame Basilica church in Nice

French policemen stand guard a street after a knife attack in Nice

French policemen stand guard a street after a knife attack in Nice

French policemen stand guard a street after a knife attack in Nice

Police officers secure the area after a reported knife attack at Notre Dame church in Nice

Police officers secure the area after a reported knife attack at Notre Dame church in Nice

Police officers secure the area after a reported knife attack at Notre Dame church in Nice

Police cordon off the street leading to the cathedral after the attack on Thursday

Police cordon off the street leading to the cathedral after the attack on Thursday

Police cordon off the street leading to the cathedral after the attack on Thursday

TERROR IN FRANCE: HOW ATTACKS HAVE UNFOLDED OVER FIVE YEARS

An attacker with a knife killed three people and wounded several others at a church in Nice on Thursday, police said.

The terror attack took place less than two weeks after the beheading of middle school teacher Samuel Paty by a man of Chechen origin.

Paty’s attacker said he wanted to punish him for showing pupils cartoons of the Prophet Mohammad in a civics lesson.

Here are other attacks that have taken place in France over the past few years:

Sept 25, 2020 – Two people are stabbed and wounded in Paris near the former offices of the Charlie Hebdo satirical magazine, where Islamist militants carried out a deadly attack in 2015. A man originally from Pakistan was arrested 

Oct. 3, 2019 – Mickael Harpon, a 45-year-old IT specialist with security clearance to work in the Paris police headquarters, killed three police officers and one civilian employee before being shot dead by police. He had converted to Islam about 10 years earlier.

March 23, 2018 – A gunman kills three people in southwestern France after holding up a car, firing on police and taking hostages in a supermarket, screaming ‘Allahu Akbar’. Security forces storm the building and kill him.

July 26, 2016 – Two attackers kill a priest and seriously wound another hostage in a church in northern France before being shot dead by French police. Francois Hollande, who was France’s president at the time, says the two hostage-takers had pledged allegiance to Islamic State.

July 14, 2016 – A gunman drives a heavy truck into a crowd celebrating Bastille Day in the French city of Nice, killing 86 people and injuring scores more in an attack claimed by Islamic State. The attacker is identified as a Tunisian-born Frenchman.

June 14, 2016 – A Frenchman of Moroccan origin stabs a police commander to death outside his home in a Paris suburb and kills his partner, who also worked for the police. The attacker told police negotiators during a siege that he was answering an appeal by Islamic State.

Nov. 13, 2015 – Paris is rocked by multiple, near simultaneous gun-and-bomb attacks on entertainment sites around the city, in which 130 people are killed and 368 are wounded. Islamic State says it was responsible for the attacks. Two of the 10 known perpetrators were Belgian citizens and three others were French.

Jan. 7-9, 2015 – Two Islamist militants break into an editorial meeting of satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo on Jan. 7 and rake it with bullets, killing 12 people. Another militant kills a policewoman the next day and takes hostages at a supermarket on Jan. 9, killing four before police shoot him dead.

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Source: Daily Mail |World News

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