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A man used a knife to attack people at Notre Dame Basilica in Nice, France, on Thursday, killing three people, authorities said. Several others were injured. Police have arrested a suspect, according to Mayor Christian Estrozi.
Two people were killed in the church and another died outside it, according to local media reports. The victims were reportedly two men and a woman.
“I send all my support and all my compassion to the families of the victims of this barbarian,” Estrosi said.
French President Emmanuel Macron arrived in Nice on Thursday after speaking earlier with Estrozi on the phone.
The mayor called the attack on the church an attack on Christendom.
“The attacker kept repeating ‘Allahu Akbar’ (God is great), even while he was under medication,” Estrozi told a media briefing in front of the church, Radio France Internationale reported.
The mayor also criticized French laws, saying they were not enough to deal with what he called “Islamic fascism”.
The French government has raised its Vigipirate alert system to emergency levels across the country, Prime Minister Jean Castex said after the attack.
“We are in mourning,” the church said in a statement.
“My grief is endless as a human being in front of what other beings called humans can do,” said Monsignor Andre Marceau. “At this point, all churches in Nice are closed until further notice and placed under police protection.”
“The knife attack comes two weeks before the day of the beheading of a French school teacher in a city north of Paris,” Eleanor Beardsley of NPR reported to our Newscast unit. “The killer in this attack was shot dead by police. He was an 18-year-old radical Chechen refugee who was angry that the teacher had shown cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad in his class on freedom of speech.”
The attack in Nice took place on the day Muslims celebrate the anniversary of Muhammad’s birth.