Three dead in knife attack in French church, woman beheaded

FRANCE-POLICE-INVESTIGATION-ATTACK

A knife-wielding attacker shouting "Allahu Akbar" beheaded a woman and killed two other people in a suspected terrorist incident at a church in the French city of Nice on Thursday, police and officials said.

Nice's mayor, Christian Estrosi, who described the attack as terrorism, said on Twitter it had happened in or near Notre Dame church, the largest in the city.

Estrosi said the attacker had repeatedly shouted the phrase "Allahu Akbar", or God is greatest, even after he had been detained by police.

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Forensic Police work outside the Notre-Dame de l'Assomption Basilica in Nice on October 29, 2020 after a knife-wielding man kills three people in the church, slitting the throat of at least one of them, in what officials are treating as the latest jihadist attack to rock the country. (Photo by Valery HACHE / AFP) (Photo by VALERY HACHE/AFP via Getty Images)
A muslim faithful lays a white flower at the Notre-Dame de la Garde basilica in Marseille, southeastern France, on October 29,2020, during a gathering to pay tribute to the victims of a knife attack inside a church in Nice, on the French Riviera. - A knife attacker killed three people, cutting the throat of at least one woman, inside a church in Nice on October 29, in what France has called an Islamist terrorist attack. (Photo by Christophe SIMON / AFP) (Photo by CHRISTOPHE SIMON/AFP via Getty Images)
People lights candle outside the Notre-Dame de l'Assomption Basilica in Nice on October 29, 2020 in tribute to the three victims of a knife attacker, cutting the throat of at least one woman, inside the church of the French Riviera city. (Photo by Valery HACHE / AFP) (Photo by VALERY HACHE/AFP via Getty Images)
A sign reading: "Together against hate and terrorism. Together for an open society" in German and French lies October 29, 2020 at a makeshift memorial for the victims of the Nice stabbings, in front of the French embassy in Berlin. (Photo by John MACDOUGALL / AFP) (Photo by JOHN MACDOUGALL/AFP via Getty Images)
CANNES, FRANCE - OCTOBER 29: General view of the Black Carpet to pay Tribute To Nice Attack Victims at Palais des Festivals on October 29, 2020 in Cannes, France. (Photo by Stephane Cardinale - Corbis/Corbis via Getty Images)
French soldiers and policemen secure the site of a knife attack in Nice on October 29, 2020. - France's national anti-terror prosecutors said Thursday they have opened a murder inquiry after a man killed three people at a basilica in central Nice and wounded several others. The city's mayor, Christian Estrosi, told journalists at the scene that the assailant, detained shortly afterwards by police, "kept repeating 'Allahu Akbar' (God is Greater) even while under medication." He added that President Emmanuel Macron would be arriving shortly in Nice. (Photo by Valery HACHE / AFP) (Photo by VALERY HACHE/AFP via Getty Images)
French forensics officers operate outside the Basilica of Notre-Dame de Nice after a knife attack in Nice on October 29, 2020. - France's national anti-terror prosecutors said Thursday they have opened a murder inquiry after a man killed three people at a basilica in central Nice and wounded several others. The city's mayor, Christian Estrosi, told journalists at the scene that the assailant, detained shortly afterwards by police, "kept repeating 'Allahu Akbar' (God is Greater) even while under medication." He added that President Emmanuel Macron would be arriving shortly in Nice. (Photo by ERIC GAILLARD / POOL / AFP) (Photo by ERIC GAILLARD/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)
French President Emmanuel Macron (L) speaks to the press as Nice's mayor Christian Estrosi (R) listens outside the the Notre-Dame de l'Assomption Basilica in Nice on October 29, 2020 after a knife-wielding man kills three people at the church, slitting the throat of at least one of them, in what officials are treating as the latest jihadist attack to rock the country. (Photo by ERIC GAILLARD / POOL / AFP) (Photo by ERIC GAILLARD/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)
Chief superintendent Emmanuelle Joubert (1st-L) introduces her teams to French President Emmanuel Macron (3rd-L) and Nice Mayor Christian Estrosi (4th-L) visit the scene of a knife attack at the Basilica of Notre-Dame de Nice in Nice on October 29, 2020. - France's national anti-terror prosecutors said Thursday they have opened a murder inquiry after a man killed three people at a basilica in central Nice and wounded several others. The city's mayor, Christian Estrosi, told journalists at the scene that the assailant, detained shortly afterwards by police, "kept repeating 'Allahu Akbar' (God is Greater) even while under medication." He added that President Emmanuel Macron would be arriving shortly in Nice. (Photo by ERIC GAILLARD / POOL / AFP) (Photo by ERIC GAILLARD/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)
A French army soldier stands by the the Notre-Dame de l'Assomption Basilica in Nice on October 29, 2020 after a knife-wielding man kills three people at the church, slitting the throat of at least one of them, in what officials are treating as the latest jihadist attack to rock the country. (Photo by ERIC GAILLARD / POOL / AFP) (Photo by ERIC GAILLARD/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)
French President Emmanuel Macron (3rd-L) and Nice Mayor Christian Estrosi (2nd-L) visit the scene of a knife attack at the Basilica of Notre-Dame de Nice in Nice on October 29, 2020. - France's national anti-terror prosecutors said Thursday they have opened a murder inquiry after a man killed three people at a basilica in central Nice and wounded several others. The city's mayor, Christian Estrosi, told journalists at the scene that the assailant, detained shortly afterwards by police, "kept repeating 'Allahu Akbar' (God is Greater) even while under medication." He added that President Emmanuel Macron would be arriving shortly in Nice. (Photo by ERIC GAILLARD / POOL / AFP) (Photo by ERIC GAILLARD/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)
NICE, FRANCE - OCTOBER 29: Police patrol near Notre-Dame basilica on October 29, 2020 in Nice, France. A man armed with a knife fatally attacked people in the Notre-Dame church in Nice, located in the heart of the city. (Photos by Arnold Jerocki /Getty Images)
NICE, FRANCE - OCTOBER 29: Police patrol near Notre-Dame basilica on October 29, 2020 in Nice, France. A man armed with a knife fatally attacked people in the Notre-Dame church in Nice, located in the heart of the city. (Photos by Arnold Jerocki /Getty Images)
NICE, FRANCE - OCTOBER 29: A forensic team evacuates a body of the victims from the church on October 29, 2020 in Nice, France. A man armed with a knife fatally attacked people in the Notre-Dame church in Nice, located in the heart of the city. (Photos by Arnold Jerocki /Getty Images)
A French forensics officer operate leaves the Basilica of Notre-Dame de Nice after inspecting the site of a knife attack in Nice on October 29, 2020. - France's national anti-terror prosecutors said Thursday they have opened a murder inquiry after a man killed three people at a basilica in central Nice and wounded several others. The city's mayor, Christian Estrosi, told journalists at the scene that the assailant, detained shortly afterwards by police, "kept repeating 'Allahu Akbar' (God is Greater) even while under medication." He added that President Emmanuel Macron would be arriving shortly in Nice. (Photo by ERIC GAILLARD / POOL / AFP) (Photo by ERIC GAILLARD/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)
Police officers stand guard by the Notre-Dame de l'Assomption Basilica in Nice on October 29, 2020 after a knife-wielding man kills three people at the church, slitting the throat of at least one of them, in what officials are treating as the latest jihadist attack to rock the country. (Photo by ERIC GAILLARD / POOL / AFP) (Photo by ERIC GAILLARD/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)
A relative of the sacristan victim of a knife attack cries in front of the Basilica of Notre-Dame de Nice in Nice on October 29, 2020. - France's national anti-terror prosecutors said Thursday they have opened a murder inquiry after a man killed three people at a basilica in central Nice and wounded several others. The city's mayor, Christian Estrosi, told journalists at the scene that the assailant, detained shortly afterwards by police, "kept repeating 'Allahu Akbar' (God is Greater) even while under medication." He added that President Emmanuel Macron would be arriving shortly in Nice. (Photo by Valery HACHE / AFP) (Photo by VALERY HACHE/AFP via Getty Images)
President of the National Assembly Richard Ferrand (L, behind the upper desk), French Prime Minister Jean Castex (2nd L, behind the lower desk) and the MP's observe a minute's silence in tribute to the victims of a knife attack in Nice, before Castex's speech at the National Assembly ahead of the MPs's vote on the measures taken to curb the spread of the Covid-19 caused by the novel coronavirus, at the Palais Bourbon in Paris on October 29, 2020. - President Emmanuel Macron announced on October 28, 2020 a new coronavirus lockdown until at least December 1, hoping to bring under control an outbreak that is poised to overwhelm hospitals in a matter of days. He admitted that a curfew for Paris and other major cities imposed two weeks ago had failed to stop a second wave of cases that has sent the death toll in France to nearly 35,000. (Photo by Bertrand GUAY / AFP) (Photo by BERTRAND GUAY/AFP via Getty Images)
A woman kneels by a police car as she cries in the streets after a knife attack in Nice on October 29, 2020. - A man wielding a knife outside a church in the southern French city of Nice slit the throat of one person, leaving another dead and injured several others in an attack on Thursday morning, officials said. The suspected assailant was detained shortly afterwards, a police source said, while interior minister Gerald Darmanin said on Twitter that he had called a crisis meeting after the attack. (Photo by Valery HACHE / AFP) (Photo by VALERY HACHE/AFP via Getty Images)
French members of the elite tactical police unit RAID enter to search the Basilica of Notre-Dame de Nice as forensics officers wait after a knife attack in Nice on October 29, 2020. - France's national anti-terror prosecutors said Thursday they have opened a murder inquiry after a man killed three people at a basilica in central Nice and wounded several others. The city's mayor, Christian Estrosi, told journalists at the scene that the assailant, detained shortly afterwards by police, "kept repeating 'Allahu Akbar' (God is Greater) even while under medication." He added that President Emmanuel Macron would be arriving shortly in Nice. (Photo by Valery HACHE / AFP) (Photo by VALERY HACHE/AFP via Getty Images)
French members of the elite tactical police unit RAID enter to search the Basilica of Notre-Dame de Nice as forensics officers wait outside after a knife attack in Nice on October 29, 2020. - A man wielding a knife outside a church in the southern French city of Nice slit the throat of one person, leaving another dead and injured several others in an attack on Thursday morning, officials said. The suspected assailant was detained shortly afterwards, a police source said, while interior minister Gerald Darmanin said on Twitter that he had called a crisis meeting after the attack. (Photo by Valery HACHE / AFP) (Photo by VALERY HACHE/AFP via Getty Images)
TOPSHOT - French policemen stand guard the site of a knife attack at the Basilica of Notre-Dame de Nice in Nice on October 29, 2020, as forensics officers prepare to enter. - France's national anti-terror prosecutors said Thursday they have opened a murder inquiry after a man killed three people at a basilica in central Nice and wounded several others. The city's mayor, Christian Estrosi, told journalists at the scene that the assailant, detained shortly afterwards by police, "kept repeating 'Allahu Akbar' (God is Greater) even while under medication." He added that President Emmanuel Macron would be arriving shortly in Nice. (Photo by ERIC GAILLARD / AFP) (Photo by ERIC GAILLARD/AFP via Getty Images)
A French policeman pushes bystanders back off the street after a knife attack in Nice on October 29, 2020. - A man wielding a knife outside a church in the southern French city of Nice slit the throat of one person, leaving another dead and injured several others in an attack on Thursday morning, officials said. The suspected assailant was detained shortly afterwards, a police source said, while interior minister Gerald Darmanin said on Twitter that he had called a crisis meeting after the attack. (Photo by Valery HACHE / AFP) (Photo by VALERY HACHE/AFP via Getty Images)
French forensics officers arrive at the site of a knife attack in Nice on October 29, 2020. - A man wielding a knife outside a church in the southern French city of Nice slit the throat of one person, leaving another dead and injured several others in an attack on Thursday morning, officials said. The suspected assailant was detained shortly afterwards, a police source said, while interior minister Gerald Darmanin said on Twitter that he had called a crisis meeting after the attack. (Photo by Valery HACHE / AFP) (Photo by VALERY HACHE/AFP via Getty Images)
Bystanders wait next to a police car after a knife attack in Nice on October 29, 2020. - A man wielding a knife outside a church in the southern French city of Nice slit the throat of one person, leaving another dead and injured several others in an attack on Thursday morning, officials said. The suspected assailant was detained shortly afterwards, a police source said, while interior minister Gerald Darmanin said on Twitter that he had called a crisis meeting after the attack. (Photo by Valery HACHE / AFP) (Photo by VALERY HACHE/AFP via Getty Images)
French policemen stand guard a street after a knife attack in Nice on October 29, 2020. - A man wielding a knife outside a church in the southern French city of Nice slit the throat of one person, leaving another dead and injured several others in an attack on Thursday morning, officials said. The suspected assailant was detained shortly afterwards, a police source said, while interior minister Gerald Darmanin said on Twitter that he had called a crisis meeting after the attack. (Photo by Valery HACHE / AFP) (Photo by VALERY HACHE/AFP via Getty Images)
French policemen stand guard a street after a knife attack in Nice on October 29, 2020. - A man wielding a knife outside a church in the southern French city of Nice slit the throat of one person, leaving another dead and injured several others in an attack on Thursday morning, officials said. The suspected assailant was detained shortly afterwards, a police source said, while interior minister Gerald Darmanin said on Twitter that he had called a crisis meeting after the attack. (Photo by Valery HACHE / AFP) (Photo by VALERY HACHE/AFP via Getty Images)
French forensics officers arrive at the site of a knife attack in Nice on October 29, 2020. - A man wielding a knife outside a church in the southern French city of Nice slit the throat of one person, leaving another dead and injured several others in an attack on Thursday morning, officials said. The suspected assailant was detained shortly afterwards, a police source said, while interior minister Gerald Darmanin said on Twitter that he had called a crisis meeting after the attack. (Photo by Valery HACHE / AFP) (Photo by VALERY HACHE/AFP via Getty Images)
French policemen and soldiers stand guard a street after a knife attack in Nice on October 29, 2020. - A man wielding a knife outside a church in the southern French city of Nice slit the throat of one person, leaving another dead and injured several others in an attack on Thursday morning, officials said. The suspected assailant was detained shortly afterwards, a police source said, while interior minister Gerald Darmanin said on Twitter that he had called a crisis meeting after the attack. (Photo by Valery HACHE / AFP) (Photo by VALERY HACHE/AFP via Getty Images)
29 October 2020, Berlin: Katrin Göring-Eckardt, a federal Green politician, attends a memorial service on Pariser Platz. After the knife attack in a church in Nice in southern France, the FDP interior politician Kuhle had called for this. Photo: Paul Zinken/dpa-Zentralbild/dpa (Photo by Paul Zinken/picture alliance via Getty Images)
investigators and forensic Police work outside the Notre-Dame de l'Assomption Basilica in Nice on October 29, 2020 after a knife-wielding man kills three people in the church, slitting the throat of at least one of them, in what officials are treating as the latest jihadist attack to rock the country. (Photo by Valery HACHE / AFP) (Photo by VALERY HACHE/AFP via Getty Images)
Police block the access to the Notre-Dame de l'Assomption Basilica in Nice on October 29, 2020 after a knife-wielding man kills three people at the church, slitting the throat of at least one of them, in what officials are treating as the latest jihadist attack to rock the country. (Photo by Valery HACHE / AFP) (Photo by VALERY HACHE/AFP via Getty Images)
NICE, FRANCE - OCTOBER 29: Police stand in front of Notre-Dame basilica on October 29, 2020 in Nice, France. A man armed with a knife fatally attacked people in the Notre-Dame church in Nice, located in the heart of the city. (Photos by Arnold Jerocki /Getty Images)
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One of the people killed inside the church was believed to be the church warden, Estrosi said, adding that a woman had tried to escape from inside the church and had fled into a bar opposite the 19th century neo-Gothic building.

"The suspected knife attacker was shot by police while being detained, he is on his way to hospital, he is alive," Estrosi told reporters.

"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."

Reuters journalists at the scene said police armed with automatic weapons had put up a security cordon around the church, which is on Nice's Jean Medecin avenue, the city's main shopping thoroughfare. Ambulances and fire service vehicles were also at the scene.

SOLIDARITY

French President Emmanuel Macron is due to visit Nice, Estrosi said.

In Paris, lawmakers in the National Assembly observed a minute's silence in solidarity with the victims.

Police said three people were confirmed to have died in the attack and several were injured. The French anti-terrorist prosecutor's department said it had been asked to investigate.

A police source said a woman was decapitated. French politician Marine Le Pen also spoke of a decapitation having occurred in the attack.

A representative of the French Council for the Muslim Faith strongly condemned the attack. "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.".

The holiday is the birthday of the Prophet Mohammad, which is being celebrated Thursday.

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, referring to a French teacher beheaded earlier this month in an attack in a suburb of Paris.

The attack comes while France is still reeling from the beheading earlier this month of middle school teacher Paty by a man of Chechen origin.

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

It was not immediately clear if Thursday's attack was connected to the cartoons, which Muslims consider to be blasphemous.

Since Paty's killing, French officials - backed by many ordinary citizens - have re-asserted the right to display the cartoons, and the images have been widely displayed at marches in solidarity with the killed teacher.

That has prompted an outpouring of anger in parts of the Muslim world, with some governments accusing Macron of pursuing an anti-Islam agenda.

In a comment on recent beheadings in France, the Kremlin said on Thursday it was unacceptable to kill people, but also wrong to insult the feelings of religious believers.

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