A knife-wielding Tunisian man shouting “Allahu Akbar” (God is Greatest) beheaded a woman and killed two other people in a church in the French city of Nice on Thursday before being shot and taken away by police.
President Emmanuel Macron said France would deploy thousands more soldiers to protect important sites such as places of worship and schools, as the country’s security alert was raised to its highest level.
Speaking outside the church, Macron said France had been attacked “over our values, for our taste for freedom, for the ability on our soil to have freedom of belief … And I say it with great clarity again today: We will not give any ground.”
The attack came just under two weeks after a middle-school teacher in a Paris suburb was beheaded by an 18-year-old attacker who was apparently incensed by the teacher showing a carton of the Prophet Mohammad in class.
Chief anti-terrorist prosecutor Jean-Francois Ricard said the suspect in Thursday’s attack was a Tunisian man born in 1999 who had arrived in Europe on Sept. 20 in Lampedusa, the Italian island off Tunisia that is the main landing point for migrants from Africa.
A Tunisian security source and a French police source named the suspect as Brahim Aouissaoui, Reuters reported.
Ricard told a news conference in Nice that the man had entered the city by train early on Thursday morning and made his way to the church, where he stabbed and killed the 55-year-old sexton and beheaded a 60-year-old woman.
He also stabbed a 44-year-old woman who fled to a nearby cafe where she raised the alarm before dying, Ricard said. Police then arrived and confronted the attacker, still shouting “Allahu Akbar”, and shot and wounded him.
“On the attacker we found a Koran and two telephones, the knife of the crime – 30cm with a cutting edge of 17cm. We also found a bag left by the attacker. Next to this bag were two knives that were not used in the attack,” Ricard said.