The first picture has emerged of one of the three people killed during an Islamist attack in Nice – which saw two of the victims beheaded during a day of terror for France.
Vincent Loques, 45, a sacristan of the Notre Dame basilica in the city of Nice, was brutally killed as he prepared for the first Mass of the day after 21-year-old Tunisian migrant Brahim Aoussaoui attacked the church.
Aoussaoui is thought to have beheaded an elderly female parishioner who had come to to pray as the church opened before attacking Loques, then fatally stabbing a second woman who ran across the street before dying of her injuries. Armed police arrived 10 minutes later and shot Aoussaoui, before arresting him.
Elsewhere a security guard was stabbed and wounded outside the French consulate in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, while two other men were arrested – one while carrying a knife near a church in Sartrouville after his father reported he was about to carry out a Nice-style attack, and another who tried to board a train in Lyon carrying a long blade.
It was thought that police had foiled another Islamist attack in the town of Avignon when an armed man was shot dead by officers after refusing to drop his weapon.
However, it later transpired the man was part of the far-Right, anti-Islam Identarian Movement, and had made a Nazi Salute. French media initially reported the man shouted ‘Allahu Akbar’, which turned out to be incorrect.
The attacks come amid fury across the Islamic world at President Macron for defending satirical cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed, and on the day that Sunni Muslims mark the Prophet’s birthday.
It also comes less than two weeks after a schoolteacher, Samuel Paty, was beheaded north of Paris for showing cartoons of the Prophet to his class in a lesson on free speech.
Macron travelled to Nice following the attack and gave a speech shortly after 3pm, as church bells sounded across France to honour the dead. Macron said it was ‘clear that France that is under attack… because of our values of freedom and our desire not to give in to terror’.
‘I say it with lots of clarity again today: we will not give any ground,’ he added.
He threw his weight behind the Catholic church, saying: ‘The entire nation will stand so that religion can continue to be exercised freely in our country.’ He also called for ‘unity’ urging people ‘not to give in to the spirit of division’.
He added that security will be stepped up at places of worship and schools, increasing the number of security forces on standby from 3,000 to 7,000.
It came after a day of terror for France, during which…
- Three people were stabbed to death – two of them beheaded – at a church in the city of Nice
- A knifeman shouting ‘Allahu Akbar’ was shot dead by police in the city of Avignon
- A security guard at the French consulate in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, was stabbed and wounded
- A man armed with a knife was arrested in Sartrouville near a church after vowing ‘to do as in Nice’
- An Afghan man was arrested in Lyon trying to board a train while armed with a long knife
In the Nice attack, the first victim – a woman in her seventies – was attacked after coming there early to pray and was found ‘almost beheaded’ close to the church font.
The 45-year-old sacristan, Vincent Loques, a father-of-two, was then attacked and also beheaded.
A third woman – described as of African origin and aged in her 30s – was then stabbed ‘multiple times’ and managed to flee to a bar across the street, where she died.
Police were called and arrived at 9.10am. They stormed the basilica, shooting and arresting the attacker.
The attacker is a 21-year-old Tunisian who is thought to have arrived in France via Italy, after being smuggled across the Mediterranean.
According to Italian newspaper Ill Messaggero, Aoussaoui arrived on the island of Lampedusa on September 20 before being transferred to coronavirus quarantine.
He was then taken to a migrant centre on the Italian mainland on October 9, before being told to leave Italian territory and released. From there, he made his way to France. It is not clear precisely when he arrived.
Italian security services are now investigating why Aoussaoui was freed rather than detained awaiting deportation.
Nice Mayor Christian Estrosi said Aoussaoui ‘kept shouting Allahu Akbar even after being medicated’, and that ‘the meaning of his gesture is not in doubt’.
‘Enough is enough,’ he said. ‘It’s time now for France to exonerate itself from the laws of peace in order to definitively wipe out Islamo-fascism from our territory.’
Estrosi said the victims had been killed in a ‘horrible way’. ‘The methods match, without doubt, those used against the brave teacher in Conflans Sainte Honorine, Samuel Paty,’ he said.
Meanwhile Eric Ciotti, a local councillor, tweeted: ‘I have just asked President Macron to suspend all migratory flows and all asylum procedures, particularly at the Italian border. We must protect the French!’
In Sartrouville, north of Paris, a man was arrested around 1pm after his father called police and said his son had left home and planned ‘to do as in Nice.’
Police stopped the man in his car near a local church, and Le Parisien reports that he was in possession of a knife. The car was searched, but nothing else was found.
Meanwhile in Lyon, an Afghan man in his 20s was arrested while trying to board a tram carrying a long knife. The man was known to French intelligence services.
In Avignon, a man armed with a handgun began threatening people in the Montfavet around 11.15am while shouting Allahu Akbar, France1 reported.
Police rushed to the scene and confronted the man, who refused to drop his weapon. Police then shot the man with a Taser, which failed to stop him, so they opened fire with live ammunition, killing him.
French anti-terror investigators have announced they are leading the probe into the attack in Nice, but have not yet taken up the investigation in Avignon.
Meanwhile in Saudi Arabia, a man was arrested after stabbing a guard at the French consulate with ‘a sharp tool’. The attacker was arrested while the guard was taken to hospital with non-life threatening injuries.
France’s embassy in Riyadh condemned the ‘attack on diplomatic premises which can never be justified’.
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Source: Daily Mail