A woman was reportedly beheaded and two others were stabbed to death on Thursday after a knife attack on a church in the French city of Nice, which also injured several others, according to numerous reports.
The suspect, believed to be acting alone, was injured during his arrest and taken to a local hospital, police said.
An investigation has been launched into an attack by the French counter-terrorism prosecutor’s office, the report said. Images in French media show that the neighborhood is locked and surrounded by police and ambulances.
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Mayor Christian Estrozi has suggested that Thursday morning̵
“Enough is enough,” Estrosi told local reporters, according to Reuters. “Now is the time for France to break free from the laws of peace in order to finally remove Islamic fascism from our territory.”
He added that two people had been killed in the city’s Notre Dame basilica, and a third man who had fled to a nearby bar had died later.
Thursday’s incident was the third attack in France in less than two months since a terrorist attack linked to the January 2015 killings in the satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo and the kosher supermarket was launched in September.
The church attack also took place less than half a mile from the site where another assailant buried a truck in the Bastille Day crowd, killing dozens.
Thursday also marked the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad this year.
The incident is happening because France is currently worried about Islamic extremist actions. It came nearly two weeks after a French high school teacher, Samuel Patti, was beheaded by a Chechen man near Paris.
The 18-year-old suspect, who was killed after failing to respond to pleas to drop his weapon, said he wanted to punish Patty for showing students cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad in a civil liberties lesson, Reuters reported.
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These cartoons were published by Charlie Hebdo and quoted by the men who killed the newspaper’s editorial meeting in 2015.
In September, a man seeking asylum in France attacked passers-by outside Charlie Hebdo’s former offices with a butcher knife.
The lower house of parliament has stopped debating new restrictions on the virus in France and held a minute of silence for victims on Thursday. The prime minister rushed from the hall to the crisis center, which is monitoring the aftermath of the attack in Nice. French President Emmanuel Macron was sent to Nice later in the day.
About 154 miles from Nice, French police shot dead a man in Monfavet, near the southern French city of Avignon, on Thursday, allegedly threatening a passerby with a gun, Reuters reported, citing local media. According to the French radio station “Europe 1”, the man called “Allahu Akbar”.
Tensions are rising between France and the Muslim world, which sees the caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad as blasphemous.
Images of the prophet have been widely featured in marches and protests since Patti’s assassination, as French officials and citizens reaffirm their freedom of expression. France has since expelled 231 foreigners for alleged Islamic extremist beliefs, prompting Erdogan and others in the Muslim world to accuse Macron of promoting an “anti-Islamic program.”
About six million Muslims live in France, the largest population in Western Europe, creating growing challenges in a republic formed on strict secular principles known as ‘laïcité’. In praise of Patti Macron’s funeral, he defended France’s secularism and vowed not to give up his freedoms or his cartoons.
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“We will continue, Professor. We will defend the freedom you have taught so well, and we will promote secularism, we will not give up cartoons, drawings, even if others withdraw,” Macron said earlier this month. “We will continue the struggle for freedom and the freedom you now face.”
Wednesday’s Charlie Hebdo also caused a furor over the inclusion of a cartoon of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in his underwear, lifting the skirt of a Muslim woman. Erdogan called the satirical image a “grave insult to my prophet” and renewed calls for a boycott of French goods in the Middle East.
A Saudi man was also arrested in the city of Jeddah on Thursday for allegedly using a “sharp tool” to stab and slightly injure a guard at the French consulate, Reuters reported, citing Saudi state television. France has warned its citizens to be on high alert.
The Kremlin responded on Thursday to recent beheadings in France, saying it was unacceptable to kill people, but it was also wrong to offend the feelings of believers, according to Reuters.
Macron delivered a speech before the teacher was assassinated, outlining a legislative proposal to combat what he described as “Islamic separatism”, arguing that Muslims in France risked forming a “counter-society”. Macron described Islam as “a religion that is in crisis around the world today” and said the proposal, if approved by parliament, would aim to “build Islam in France that can be compatible with the Enlightenment”.
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The diplomatic dispute with Erdogan also comes as tensions between NATO allies France and Turkey have escalated in recent months over issues involving fighting in Syria, Libya and Nagorno-Karabakh, a region in Azerbaijan controlled by ethnic Armenian separatists. Macron accused Turkey of violating its commitments by increasing its military presence in Libya and attracting jihadists from Syria.
The Associated Press contributed to this report