An attacker killed three people at a church in Nice, police in the French city said Thursday.
The incident took place at the Basilica of Notre-Dame de Nice Oct. 29 at around 9am local time, according to French media.
Christian Estrosi, Nice’s mayor, said that the perpetrator, who was armed with a knife, was shot and arrested by the municipal police.
He said in a video posted to Twitter that the attacker repeatedly shouted “Allahu Akbar” during and after the attack.
“It looks like for at least one of the victims, inside the church, it was the same method as for the poor professor of Conflans-Sainte-Honorine a few days ago, that is absolute horror,” Estrosi said in the video, referencing the beheading of middle-school teacher Samuel Paty in Paris Oct. 16.
The French newspaper Le Figaro reported that one of the victims, an elderly woman, was found “nearly beheaded” inside the church. It said that a man, identified as the sacristan, was also found dead inside of the basilica. A third victim, a woman, is said to have taken refuge in a nearby cafe, where she died from stab wounds.
Estrosi wrote on Twitter: “I confirm that everything suggests a terrorist attack in the Basilica of Notre-Dame de Nice.”
Bouleversé par les 3 victimes dont 2 décédées a l’intérieur de la Basilique #NotreDame et notamment le gardien si apprécié par les paroissiens. #Nice06 a payé un trop lourd tribu au meme titre que notre pays depuis quelques années. J’appelle à l’unité des Niçois.
— Christian Estrosi (@cestrosi) October 29, 2020
Bishop André Marceau of Nice said that all churches in Nice had been closed and would remain under police protection until further notice.
The Basilica of Notre-Dame, completed in 1868, is the largest church in Nice, but is not the city’s cathedral.
Marceau said that his emotion was strong after learning of the “heinous terrorist act” at the basilica. He also noted that it occured not long after the beheading of Paty.
“My sadness is infinite as a human being in the face of what other beings, called human, can do,” he said in a statement.
“May Christ's spirit of forgiveness prevail in the face of these barbaric acts.”
Cardinal Robert Sarah also responded to the news of the attack on the basilica.
He wrote on Twitter: “Islamism is a monstrous fanaticism which must be fought with force and determination ... Unfortunately, we Africans know this too well. The barbarians are always the enemies of peace. The West, today France, must understand this.”
Mohammed Moussaoui, president of French Council of Muslim Faith, condemned the terrorist attack and asked French Muslims to cancel their festivities for Mawlid, the Oct. 29 celebration of the Prophet Muhammad's birthday, “as a sign of mourning and solidarity with the victims and their loved ones.”
Other attacks took place in France Oct. 29. In Montfavet, near the southern French city of Avignon, a man waving a handgun made threats and was killed by the police two hours after the Nice attack. Radio station Europe 1 said the man was also shouting “Allahu Akbar.”
Reuters also reported a knife attack on a guard at the French consulate in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.
Drame à Nice. Ma prière pour les victimes et leurs proches. Dimanche, pour la Toussaint, nous entendrons le Seigneur : Heureux les artisans de paix, ils seront appelés fils de Dieu. Heureux si l'on vous persecute à cause de moi. Car votre récompense sera grande dans les cieux.
— Mgr de Moulins-Beaufort (@Mgr_EMB) October 29, 2020
Archbishop Éric de Moulins-Beaufort, president of the French bishops’ conference, wrote on Twitter that he was praying for Catholics in Nice and for their bishop.
Estrosi said that he had spoken to Emmanuel Macron about the incident and that the French president would visit Nice late morning.