French officials said that the perpetrator of the attack, which resulted in three deaths in a church in Nice, was a young Tunisian man who arrived in France a few days ago.
They added that the suspect is 21 years old, and that he arrived on the Italian island of Lampedusa last month, on a migrant boat, before coming to France.
French President Emmanuel Macron described the incident as an “Islamic terrorist attack”.
The police shot the suspect, who was identified as Ibrahim Al-Owaisawi, who carried a document from the Italian Red Cross, and was now in critical condition.
After a visit to Nice, southern France, Macron said: “If we are attacked again, this is for the sake of our values: freedom, and for the sake of what our land has in terms of believing freely, and not being subject to feelings of terror.”
He added, “I say it very clearly again today: We will not give up anything.”
Macron said the number of soldiers to be deployed to protect public places – such as churches and schools – would increase from 3,000 to 7,000.
The mayor of Nice, Christian Astrozi, described the attack as “terrorist”. He spoke of what he described as “Islamic fascism,” and said that the suspect “kept repeating God is great.”
He added that one of the elderly victims, who had come to pray, “beheaded.”
The mayor compared the attack to the killing of teacher Samuel Patty, who was beheaded near his school outside Paris earlier this month.
France raised the national security alert system to its highest levels.
There were two other attacks on Thursday morning, one in France and the other in Saudi Arabia.
A man was shot dead in Montvave, near Avignon, after he threatened police with a pistol. A guard was attacked outside the French consulate in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. A suspect was arrested and the guard was taken to hospital.
What do we know about the Nice attack? Who are the victims?
Three people were attacked inside the church on Thursday morning, before the first mass of the day.
Reports said that two of those killed were attacked inside the church, a 60-year-old woman and a 55-year-old man, who was found cut off his neck.
The man was a regular employee among those responsible for maintaining the church, and reports indicated that he was married and had two children.
A 44-year-old woman managed to escape to a nearby cafe after being stabbed several times, but she died later.
An eyewitness who lives near the church, Chloe, told the BBC: “We heard a lot of people screaming in the street. We saw from the window that more and more police were coming, and we heard the sounds of gunshots, many gunshots.”
The Anti-Terrorism Prosecutor said that four policemen arrived at the scene at 08:57 local time (07:57 GMT), and the attacker was shot and arrested soon after.
Four years ago, Nice was the scene of another terrorist attack, when a Tunisian drove a truck and rammed crowds of people celebrating Bastille Day on July 14, killing 86 people.
How was the reaction?
Members of the National Assembly observed a minute of silence, as Prime Minister Jean Castex was providing details of the measures to close the country due to Covid-19, which will take effect on Thursday evening.
Castex announced raising the national security alert system to its highest levels, and said the Nice attack was “as cowardly as it is barbaric.”
The French Council of the Islamic Faith condemned the attack, expressing its solidarity with the victims and their families.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said, in a tweet in both English and French, that the UK was “firmly” on France’s side.
“I am horrified to hear the news coming from Nice this morning about a barbaric attack on Notre Dame. Our feelings are with the victims and their families, and Britain stands firmly with France against terrorism and intolerance.”
Turkey condemned the attack, describing it as “brutal.”
Vatican spokesman Matteo Bruni said the killings “brought death to a place of love and consolation.”
What is the context of what happened?
Thursday’s attack echoes another attack earlier this month near a school northwest of Paris.
Samuel Patty, who was a teacher at Conflans Saint-Honorine, was beheaded days after he showed some of his students cartoons offensive to the Prophet Muhammad.
There was widespread controversy over Macron’s statements about Islam, and relations between Turkey and France witnessed tension as a result.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan was among those calling for a boycott of French goods.
The situation also worsened after a cartoon of Erdoan appeared in the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo.
A timeline of the recent attacks in France:
October 2020: French teacher Samuel Patty beheaded outside a school in a suburb of Paris
September 2020: Two people were seriously injured in a stabbing accident in Paris near the former Charlie Hebdo offices, where Islamist militants launched a deadly attack in 2015.
July 2016: Two attackers kill Pastor Jacques Hamel and seriously injure another hostage, after storming a church in a suburb of Rouen, northern France.
July 2016: A gunman drives a large truck amid a crowd celebrating Bastille Day in Nice, killing 86 people in an attack claimed by ISIS.
November 2015: Militants and suicide bombers launch several coordinated attacks on the Bataclan concert hall, main stadium, restaurants and bars in Paris, killing 130 people and wounding hundreds.
January 2015: Two Islamist militants storm Charlie Hebdos offices, killing 12 people.
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