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'We will not give up our values': Macron vows defiance after knife attack in church kills three people

Emmanuel Macron said his country would stand firm against religious extremists.

Image: PA Images
Image: PA Images
Image: Xinhua News Agency/PA Images

FRENCH PRESIDENT EMMANUEL Macron vowed his country would stand firm against religious extremists after a knife-wielding man killed three people at a church, in the country’s second attack blamed on Islamist terrorism this month.

France will not “give up on our values,” Macron said in Nice, after a Tunisian migrant went on a near half-hour rampage with a 30-centimetre knife, targeting people praying in the southern city’s Notre-Dame basilica.

A 60-year-old woman died inside the church and the body of a man, a 55-year-old church employee, was found nearby, his throat also slit.

Another woman, a 44-year-old Brazilian who had fled the church to a nearby restaurant, died shortly afterwards from multiple knife wounds.

“Tell my children I love them,” she managed to say before her death, according to French cable channel BFM TV.

The assailant, who was shot and wounded by police, was identified as 21-year-old Brahim Aouissaoui, who arrived in Italy last month, then travelled to France, judicial sources said.

Tweet by @Emmanuel Macron Source: Emmanuel Macron/Twitter

 
Aouissaoui who had a copy of the Koran and three knives with him, shouted “Allahu Akbar” (God is Greatest) when approached by police who shot and seriously wounded him, France’s anti-terror prosecutor Jean-Francois Ricard told a press conference.

Nice Mayor Christian Estrosi told journalists at the scene the attacker “kept repeating ‘Allahu Akbar’ even while under medication” as he was taken to hospital.

The church killings come after the 16 October beheading in a Paris suburb of history teacher Samuel Paty by an extremist after Paty showed pupils cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed in a free speech lesson.

Macron defended the cartoons and the right to mock religion, sparking widespread anger against France in the Islamic world and several campaigns in Muslim-majority countries to boycott French products.

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Police prevented ‘higher toll’ 

Daniel Conilh, a 32-year-old waiter at Nice’s Grand Cafe de Lyon, a block from the church, said it was shortly before 9am when “shots were fired and everybody took off running”.

“A woman came in straight from the church and said, ‘Run, run, someone has been stabbing people’,” he told AFP.

French anti-terror prosecutors are handling the inquiry into charges related to a “terrorist murder”.

The police who shot Aouissaoui had “without any doubt prevented an even higher toll,” said chief prosecutor Jean-Francois Ricard, adding investigators had found two unused knives in a bag at the scene.

The killings, which occurred ahead of the Catholic holy day of All Saints Day on Sunday, prompted the government to raise the terror alert level to the maximum “emergency” level nationwide.

© – AFP, 2020

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