Two terror attacks have hit France, the first at the Notre Dame basilica in Nice and the second in Avignon

France has been struck by two terror attacks within hours of each other as three people were killed - two of them beheaded - in an attack inside a church in Nice before a gunman was shot dead by police in Avignon.

The first attack began around 9am at the Notre Dame basilica in Nice where a knifeman beheaded an elderly female parishioner and a male church warden, fatally stabbed a second woman, wounded several others, and was then shot and arrested by police. 

Two hours later, a gunman threatened people on the streets of Avignon - 120 miles from Nice - while shouting 'Allahu Akbar' before he was fatally shot by police.

Elsewhere, a security guard at the French consulate in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, was stabbed and wounded.

Another man was also arrested in Sartrouville, north of Paris, 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.

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.  

Three people have died - two of whom were beheaded - after a knifeman attacked the Notre Dame basilica in Nice at 9am on Friday, before he was shot and arrested by police
Three people have died - two of whom were beheaded - after a knifeman attacked the Notre Dame basilica in Nice at 9am on Friday, before he was shot and arrested by police
Emmanuel Macron arrives at the scene of the attack, where he spoke with paramedics and police officers
Emmanuel Macron arrives at the scene of the attack, where he spoke with paramedics and police officers

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. 

A 45-year-old sacristan, named locally as Vincent L, 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 man in his 20s who gave his name as Brahim while being arrested, Le Figaro reported. His identity is being checked by police.  

Nice Mayor Christian Estrosi said the attacker '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.

He also called for churches around France to be given extra protection or closed as a precaution. 

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.

A person who was wounded during the attack on a basilica in Nice is wheeled into the back of an ambulance
A person who was wounded during the attack on a basilica in Nice is wheeled into the back of an ambulance

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. 

A 45-year-old sacristan, named locally as Vincent L, 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 man in his 20s who gave his name as Brahim while being arrested, Le Figaro reported. His identity is being checked by police.  

Nice Mayor Christian Estrosi said the attacker '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.

He also called for churches around France to be given extra protection or closed as a precaution. 

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.

Special forces stand guard near the scene of a reported knife attack at Notre Dame church in Nice
Special forces stand guard near the scene of a reported knife attack at Notre Dame church in Nice

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'. 

French diplomats also called on Saudi authorities to 'shed light on this attack' and ensure the safety of French people in the kingdom.

'We call on our colleagues in Saudi Arabia to show maximum vigilance,' the embassy said after Saudi security forces apprehended the suspect, who is said to be a Saudi national in his 40s.  

The Nice attack happened less than half a mile from where another attacker plowed a truck into a Bastille Day crowd in 2016, killing dozens.  

Emmanuel Macron led an emergency cabinet meeting on the attack before leaving for Nice, where he is expected to arrive shortly. 

French politicians were taking part in a debate on the country's new coronavirus restrictions when news of the attack reached them.  

They observed a minute of silence before the debate broke up so an emergency security meeting could be held.

After the meeting, Prime Minister Jean Castex moved the threat level from 'risk of attack' to the 'emergency level', meaning threats are imminent. 

French soldiers and policemen secure the site of a knife attack in Nice
French soldiers and policemen secure the site of a knife attack in Nice

Images on French media showed the neighborhood locked down and surrounded by police and emergency vehicles. Sounds of explosions could be heard as sappers exploded suspicious objects. 

The Catholic Church issued a statement, condemning the 'unspeakable act' and saying that 'Christians must not become a symbol to be cut down.' 

Catholic bishops in France called for all church bells to ring at 3pm in solidarity with the victims, before adding: 'It is urgent that this gangrene be stopped as it is urgent that we find the indispensable fraternity which will hold us all upright in the face of these threats'

Pope Francis was among those leading an outpouring of sympathy, saying: 'I pray for the victims, for their families and for the beloved French people, so that they can react to evil with good.'

Former French Presidents Nicolas Sarkozy and Francois Hollande also issued statements, the former condemning an 'act of barbarism' and calling on people to oppose 'the enemies of democracy; while the latter vowed that 'democracy is our weapon... in the face of Islamist terrorism'.

The French Council of Muslim Worship also issued a statement strongly condemning the attack.

'As a sign of mourning and solidarity with the victims and their relatives, I call on the Muslims of France to cancel all the festivities of the Mawlid feast,' which takes place on October 28 and 29. 

The attack is just the latest to strike France, after history teacher Samuel Paty was beheaded in another attack north of Paris.

Paty was stabbed by an 18-year-old Chechen after he showed the cartoons to his students during a lesson on free speech.

Parents of pupils at the school had led a campaign against him, before the attack took place. Seven have been arrested. 

Just a few weeks earlier, an 18-year-old Pakistani stabbed a wounded two people outside the old offices of satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo.

The man has admitted to police that he was targeting the magazine for publishing cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed. 

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson also spoke out to condemn the attack, tweeting: 'I am appalled to hear the news from Nice this morning of a barbaric attack at the Notre-Dame Basilica. 

'Our thoughts are with the victims and their families, and the UK stands steadfastly with France against terror and intolerance.'

German Chancellor Angela Merkel expressed 'solidarity' with France, saying she is 'deeply moved by the cruel murders in a church in Nice.' 

It also comes amid mass protests in many Islamic countries against Emmanuel Macron, after the French President spoke up in defence of the cartoons. 

Tweeting in Arabic, he wrote: 'Nothing makes us hold back, ever. We respect all differences in the spirit of peace. We never accept hate speech and defend rational debate. 

'We will always stand by human dignity and universal values.' 

His remarks have prompted demonstrations in Gaza, Turkey, Pakistan and Bangladesh, and boycotts of French products in Jordan, Kuwait, Qatar and Palestinian territories.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has led outrage at Macron, suggesting that he is mentally ill and needs to have his health evaluated.

On Thursday, Ankara said strongly condemned Thursday's 'savage' knife attack in southern France that left three people dead, offering its 'solidarity', despite a running diplomatic spat with Paris.

'We strongly condemn the attack committed today inside the Notre-Dame church in Nice,' a foreign ministry statement said, while offering condolences to the victims' relatives.

Armed police approach the church where the attack is thought to have started during Mass
Armed police approach the church where the attack is thought to have started during Mass

The Islamic world's anger at France deepened on Wednesday as Turkey condemned a Charlie Hebdo cartoon showing its president Recep Tayyip Erdogan lifting a woman's burka to look at her naked backside. 

Erdogan called the cartoonists 'scoundrels' and accused the West of wanting to 'relaunch the Crusades' by attacking Islam after the image appeared on the front of this week's magazine.  

'I don't need to say anything to those scoundrels who insult my beloved prophet on such a scale,' Erdogan said, calling it a 'disgusting attack'. 

Showing Erdogan in a T-shirt and underpants, the caricature has Erdogan saying 'Ooh, the Prophet' as he looks at the woman's backside, and comes with the caption: 'Erdogan - in private he's very funny'.

A Charlie Hebdo cartoon showing the naked Prophet's backside was the image which French school teacher Samuel Paty showed to his class in the lesson which led to his murder and beheading earlier this month. 

French president Emmanuel Macron has staunchly defended free expression and the right to mock religion in the wake of the terror attack, but has become a target of anger in the Islamic world. 

Turkey has vowed to take 'legal, diplomatic actions' in response to the cartoon while Pakistan's PM Imran Khan called for an end to 'attacks on Islam', saying the West should be willing to treat blasphemy in the same way as Holocaust denial. 

Meanwhile Iran's president Hassan Rouhani also took aim at France today by warning that insulting the Prophet would encourage 'violence and bloodshed'.

Indian Muslims burn posters of Emmanuel Macron during protest against his defence of cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed
Indian Muslims burn posters of Emmanuel Macron during protest against his defence of cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed

 

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