An attacker with a knife has killed at least three people and wounded several others at a church in the French city of Nice.
Mayor Christian Estrosi said on Twitter that police had detained the attacker. He tweeted: “I can confirm everything suggests this was a terror attack in the Notre-Dame Basilica,” in central Nice.
Estrosi claimed that two women and one man were dead. One woman took refuge in a nearby bar where she succumbed to her injuries. The other was killed in the most “horrible” way, he said, “like the professor” – an apparent reference to the recent attack on French teacher Samuel Paty, who was beheaded in broad daylight.
The anti-terrorism prosecutor’s office said an investigation had been opened into an attack with a terrorist connection.
Far-right leader Marine Le Pen tweeted that there was “a dramatic acceleration of Islamic acts of war against our fellow citizens.”
“The dramatic acceleration of Islamic acts of war against our fellow citizens and our country requires our leaders to provide a global response aimed at eradicating Islamism from our soil.”
Meanwhile, French police have shot dead a man in Montfavet, near the city of Avignon in southern France, after he had earlier threatened passersby with a handgun, police said.
The incidents come amid growing tensions between France and the Muslim world over French President Emmanuel Macron’s recent speech critiquing Islam, and amid renewed public support in France for the right to show blasphemous caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh).
The caricatures, which are deeply offensive to Muslims, are part of a renewed debate on freedom of expression after French teacher Samuel Paty was killed earlier this month after showing the images to his students.
Since Paty’s killing, French officials – backed by many citizens – have re-asserted the right to display the cartoons, and the images have been widely displayed at marches in solidarity with the slain teacher.
That has prompted an outpouring of anger in parts of the Muslim world, with some governments accusing French leader Emmanuel Macron of pursuing an anti-Islam agenda.