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France church attack: Woman beheaded, two others killed by man chanting ‘Allahu Akbar’ in brutal knife attack

The attack occurred just as Mass at the Notre Dame basilica, the city's largest Roman Catholic church, was underway
UPDATED OCT 29, 2020
(Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

At least three people were killed and several others were injured after a man went on a knife attack rampage inside a cathedral in Nice, France. Out of the three fatalities, one of the victims was beheaded, reports state. The attack occurred in the morning at 9 am on Thursday, October 29, just as Mass at the Notre Dame basilica, the city's largest Roman Catholic church, was underway. Within minutes of the attack, police swarmed the area, where they shot and arrested the attacker who reportedly shouted "Allahu Akbar." He was then taken to a hospital for treatment. It is believed that the perpetrator was acting alone.

The attacks come amid backlash against French President Emmanuel Macron in the Islamic world for defending satirical cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed and less than two weeks after a schoolteacher was beheaded north of Paris for showing such cartoons to his class in a lesson on free speech. 

Nice Mayor Christian Estrosi, in a statement, revealed that two of the victims — a woman and a male churchwarden – died inside the church. The beheaded woman was identified as an elderly parishioner. The mayor added that the attacker "kept shouting Allahu Akbar even after being medicated," and that "the meaning of his gesture is not in doubt." The third victim, a woman, was stabbed in the neck but she managed to flee the cathedral and into a bar across the street. Local reports state that she succumbed to her injuries at the bar. 

"Enough is enough," Estrosi 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." He added that victims of the terror attack had been killed in a "horrible way" and linked the method used in the killing to the late French teacher Samuel Patty, who was beheaded and killed just days ago, on October 16, in an act of Islamist terrorism. The mayor said: "The methods match, without doubt, those used against the brave teacher in Conflans Sainte Honorine, Samuel Paty."

Polices carry out security checks as people enter the Place de la Sorbonne to watch a live broadcast on a giant screen of a national tribute to French teacher Samuel Paty on October 21, 2020 in Paris, France. (Getty Images)

Estrosi also called for churches across the country to either be given extra protection or be closed as a precautionary measure. The attack occurred less than half a mile from where another similar attacker had killed dozens of people by plowing a truck into a Bastille Day crowd in 2016.

An investigation into the latest terror attack has been launched as police confirmed that an anti-terror prosecutor has been charged with conducting the probe on charges of murder and attempted murder. President Emmanuel Macron, shortly after the attack, led an emergency cabinet meeting before leaving for Nice. Reports state that Franch politicians were participating in a debate over the country's new coronavirus restrictions when the new of the attack emerged. The politicians observed a minute of silence for the victims before the debate was paused to conduct and emergency security meeting. 

The Catholic Church also issued a statement on the incident, denouncing it as an "unspeakable act" and said that "Christians must not become a symbol to be cut down." The French Council of Muslim Worship also strongly condemned the attack, saying: "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.