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Three dead in terrorist attack at French basilica

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CNA Staff, Oct 29, 2020 / 03:40 am MT (CNA).- An attacker killed three people at a church in Nice and wounded others, 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.

Reuters reported that one of the victims, a woman, was beheaded.

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 a middle school teacher in Paris on Oct. 16.

The police have confirmed to that three people died in the attack and several were injured, according to Reuters.

The French newspaper Le Figaro reported that one of the victims, an elderly woman, was found “nearly beheaded” near the holy water font inside the church and that a man, 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 having been stabbed several times.

Estrosi wrote on Twitter that two of the victims were killed inside the basilica. He paid tribute to the church’s guardian who he said was “so appreciated by the parishioners.”

In another tweet, he wrote: “I confirm that everything suggests a terrorist attack in the Basilica of Notre-Dame de Nice.”

Bishop André Marceau of Nice said that all churches in Nice have been closed and will remain under police protection until further notice.

The bishop said that his emotion was strong after learning of the “heinous terrorist act” at the basilica, noting that it occured not long after the beheading of a Paris school teacher, Samuel Paty, in an Islamist terror attack earlier this month.

“My sadness is infinite as a human being in the face of what other beings, called human, can do,” Marceau said in a statement.

“May Christ’s spirit of forgiveness prevail in the face of these barbaric acts,” he said.

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.”

The president of French Council of Muslim Faith, Mohammed Moussaoui, condemned the terrorist attack on Twitter 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 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 this man was also shouting “Allahu Akbar”.

The basilica, completed in 1868, is the largest church in Nice, but is not the city’s cathedral.

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.

Reuters also reported a knife attack on a guard at the French consulate in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.

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