France Attack: Nice in Mourning after Deadly Church Stabbings
The southern French city of Nice was in mourning on Friday for the three people stabbed to death in a suspected jihadist attack at a church.
A makeshift memorial has been set up outside the Notre-Dame basilica, where people have placed flowers and lit candles for the victims.
French President Emmanuel Macron said Thursday’s stabbings were an “Islamist terrorist attack”.
He is to hold an emergency meeting with senior ministers on Friday.
Meanwhile, security has been stepped up at places of worship and schools across France following two similar attacks within two weeks. Earlier this month a teacher was beheaded in a Paris suburb after showing controversial cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad to some of his pupils.
Mr Macron’s subsequent defence of the right to publish the cartoons has stoked anger in several Muslim-majority countries.
Following the latest attack, police shot and wounded the suspected knifeman, identified as a 21-year-old Tunisian who had only recently arrived in Europe. He is said to be in a critical condition in hospital.
What do we know about the victims?
The two women and a man were attacked inside the basilica on Thursday morning before the first Mass of the day.
Two died inside the church. One of them, a 60-year-old woman who has not been named, was “virtually beheaded” close to the font, according to the French chief anti-terrorism prosecutor.
French media have named one victim as 55-year-old Vincent Loquès, a devout Catholic who had reportedly worked at the basilica for more than 10 years.
Mr Loquès, a father of two loved by many of the church’s regulars, was opening the building when the attacker slit his throat, police say.
The third victim was named by the Brazilian foreign ministry as Simone Barreto Silva, a 44-year-old mother of three born in Salvador on Brazil’s north-eastern coast. She had lived in France for 30 years.
She fled to a nearby cafe with multiple stab wounds but died shortly afterwards. “Tell my children that I love them,” she told those who tried to help her, according to French media.
On Friday morning, priest Philippe Asso stood on the church steps with other mourners before walking in with a wreath to the victims.
Others gathered outside the church to pay their respects.
Nice resident Frederic Lefèvre, 50, said he knew Mr Loquès.
“This is a tragedy once again,” he said. “We’re a free country, we have demonstrated freedom to all countries of the world. Today, this freedom is closing in on us. Life needs to be lived for everyone.”
Marc Mercier, 71, called the killings a “catastrophe”.
“It’s appalling. It’s been years that we’ve been saying that fear should shift to the other side (attackers) but it is still the same.”