France has been struck by three devastating knife attacks in the space of two hours, leaving three people dead and several others injured.
Officials are yet to confirm whether the attacks are linked, however the first killing in Nice is believed to have a terror motive, Mayor Christian Estrosi said.
The first saw three people killed by a knifeman inside the Notre-Dame Basilica, just as a service was starting shortly before 10am local time.
Two of the victims, a man and an elderly woman, 70, were ‘virtually’ decapitated, a police spokesman said. The man was the church sexton.
A third woman, 40, managed to flee to a nearby cafe died after being stabbed multiple times.
Mayor Estrosi described as an ‘Islamo-fascist’ who repeatedly shouted ‘Allahu Akbar’ (God is greatest) during the attacks and even after being detained.
He was shot by police at the scene, before being arrested and taken to hospital.
President Emmanuel Macron is on his way to Nice and the French anti-terrorist prosecutor’s office has been asked to launch an investigation.
Just over an hour later, at about 11.15am, another knifeman was shot dead by French police in the Montfavet district of Avignon, in the south-east.
The attacker was also shouting ‘Allahu Akbar’ as he threatened passers-by and police with a blade, according to reports. It is believed he was working alone.
At around a similar time, a man was arrested in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, for attacking a guard outside the French embassy.
He was said to be carrying a ‘sharp tool’, reported Saudi state TV, and the guard has been rushed to hospital. His condition is not believed to be life-threatening.
Officials are yet to confirm the exact motive for the attacks in Montfavet and Jeddah.
The series of attacks come less than two weeks after history teacher, Samuel Paty, 47, was beheaded in a Paris suburb, after showing pupils a cartoon of the Prophet Muhammad.
President Emmanuel Macron said France would not ‘renounce the caricatures’ of Prophet Muhammad, and the cartoons from French satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo were projected onto government buildings last week.
The act sparked anger across the Islamic world, with thousands of Muslims calling for a boycott of French products.
A representative of the French Council for the Muslim Faith strongly condemned the attack in Nice today, saying: ‘As a sign of mourning and solidarity with the victims and their loved ones, I call on all Muslims in France to cancel all the celebrations of the holiday of Mawlid.’
Leaders from across Europe have offered their condolences to France, with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson saying he was ‘appalled’ to hear the news.
He said: ‘Our thoughts are with the victims and their families, and the UK stands steadfastly with France against terror and intolerance.’
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