Emmanuel Macron has vowed that his country will not give in to terror as France witnesses two fatal terror attacks in as many weeks. The latest incident saw a man kill three people with a knife in a church in Nice. Police investigations have commenced into the incident which took place in the city’s Notre-Dame Basilica at a time when tensions over Islam and free speech are rising to unsavory levels all over the country.
The mayor of Nice, Christian Estrosi, said the man had said “Allahu Akbar” several times while he was being arrested and handcuffed by police. He said one of the female victims had been “decapitated” but he had no details of how the two others were killed. “We have two people killed inside the church … and a third person who was in a bar facing the church where she had taken refuge,” Estrosi said. “Enough is enough … we have to remove this Islamo-fascism from our territory.”
The attack lasted for approximately thirty minutes and the first victim, a 60-year-old woman, was found at the entrance of the church with a deep wound on her neck. A 55-year-old man was also found dead at the scene with a similar wound while the third victim, a 44-year-old woman, managed to flee the church after being stabbed multiple times but died at a nearby restaurant. A witness called David, who runs La Brioche Chaude restaurant, opposite the church, told BFMTV he had alerted the police.
“I was selling croissants when a man came in and said to me: ‘Sir, there’s a decapitated woman in the cathedral.’ I didn’t believe him at first but he repeated it. I went to the cathedral and saw the municipal police and called to them. They came quickly. “I went back [to the restaurant] and pulled down the security grille.” He added: “The person who came in [to the restaurant] was someone who had been in the cathedral who was very shocked. He just said: ‘Sir, there is a woman decapitated in the cathedral.’ That’s all. I was shocked. I’m still shaking.”
The suspect is currently in critical condition in a French hospital and has been identified by French authorities as Brahim Aouissaoui, who, according to French anti-terror prosecutor Jean-François Ricard, was previously unknown to French intelligence services and not in the national fingerprint file. The interior ministry of Italy has announced that Aouissaoui is a Tunisian national that was previously given seven days to leave Italy but he was not escorted to the border as he did not have any prior criminal record. CNN are reporting that Aouissaoui was able to enter Europe via the southern Italian island of Lampedusa in September. “It is France that is under attack,” the president said. “Three of our compatriots died at the basilica in Nice today and at the same time a French consular site was attacked in Saudi Arabia.
“I want to express, first and foremost, the nation’s support for the Catholics of France and elsewhere. After 2016, with the killing of Father Hamel, it is the Catholics of our country attacked once more, and just before All Saints’ Day. We are at their side in order that religion can be freely exercised in our country. People can believe or not believe, all religions can be practised, but today the nation is beside our Catholic compatriots.” Video surveillance cameras captured Aouissaoui arriving at the train station in Nice and changing his clothes shortly after 8 am local time on October 29. He then made the short walk to the church and immediately started the attack. Thirty minutes later, four police officers arrived and the suspect was apprehended.
“My second message is to Nice and the people of Nice who have already suffered as a result of the Islamist terrorist folly. This is the third time terrorism has struck your city and you have the support and solidarity of the nation,” Emmanuel Macron said in a solemn speech to the country. “If we have been attacked once again, it is because of our values, our taste for freedom; the freedom to believe freely and not give in to any terror. We will give in to nothing. Today we have increased our security to deal with the terrorist threat.”
Macron said the French military was being mobilized to protect all places of worship, particularly Catholic churches, for the religious holiday of All Saints Day on Sunday. The number of soldiers on the streets is to be raised from 3,000 to 7,000 and troops will be deployed outside schools for the return to class on Monday. “Our absolute determination in the face of these acts will continue and we will protect all our citizens. In response, my message is one of absolute firmness and unity. There is only one community in France, the national community,” he said.