Knife attack in French city of Nice

By Rob Picheta and Nick Thompson, CNN

Updated 7:01 p.m. ET, October 29, 2020
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10:03 a.m. ET, October 29, 2020

Middle East countries condemn deadly attack in France

From CNN’s Mostafa Salem in Abu Dhabi

Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Egypt have condemned the deadly knife attack in France on Thursday. 

Egypt’s highest religious authority Al-Azhar condemned “the hateful terrorist attack that took place” in France on Thursday and warned of an “escalating rhetoric of violence and hatred."

“Under no circumstances are these attacks justifiable," Al-Azhar said in a series of tweets.

Saudi Arabia “categorically rejected extremist acts” while “stressing the importance of avoiding all practices which generate hatred, violence and extremism," state news agency SPA said. 

The Emirati Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Anwar Gargash commemorated Islam’s Prophet’s birthday, marked on Thursday, saying: “On this cherished memory, we affirm that the discourse of violence and extremism does not represent us."

9:47 a.m. ET, October 29, 2020

France reels from another suspected terror attack, after years of violence on its streets

Thursday's knife attack in Nice has been described as a "terrorist" incident by the city's mayor, and France's anti-terrorism prosecutor has taken on the investigation.

The incident marks mark the latest in France's dark recent history of attacks.

In January 2015, a total of 17 people were killed in attacks on the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, and ensuing shootouts at a kosher grocery story and the Paris suburb of Montrouge.

Armed gunmen face police officers near the offices of the French satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo during the attack in Paris, on January 7, 2015.
Armed gunmen face police officers near the offices of the French satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo during the attack in Paris, on January 7, 2015. Anne Gelbard/AFP/Getty Images

Twelve of those who died were shot when brothers Said and Chérif Kouachi forced their way into the Charlie Hebdo building and opened fire during its editorial meeting. The victims included the magazine's editor, Stephane "Charb" Charbonnier, several cartoonists and columnists, and a protection officer assigned to protect Charb, who had been the target of threats over the magazine's publication, in 2006, of cartoons depicting the Prophet Mohammed.

Depictions of Islam's prophet are considered blasphemous by many Muslims. The illustrations -- originally published by a Danish newspaper in 2005 -- prompted the brothers to attack the Charlie Hebdo offices.

Paris saw more shocking violence in November 2015, when attackers armed with assault rifles and explosives targeted six locations across the city in the deadliest attack in France since World War II.

ISIS claimed responsibility for the violence, which killed a total of 130 people and wounded a further 494. Seven locations were targeted, including the Bataclan theater and the Stade de France football stadium.

In subsequent years, a number of attacks using vehicles have taken place across the country. A July 2016 truck ramming attack in Nice, the same city struck by violence on Thursday, killed 86 people as they celebrated Bastille Day.

In December 2018, five people were killed in a shooting at a Christmas market in Strasbourg. The shooter, Cherif Chekatt, was known to prison officials for being radicalized and for his proselytizing behavior in detention in 2015. A further four people were stabbed in October 2019 at a police headquarters in Paris.

And earlier this month, a teacher, Samuel Paty, was beheaded in Paris. The country is still mourning the slaying of Paty, who was targeted after he used caricatures of Islam's Prophet Muhammad during a lesson.

9:41 a.m. ET, October 29, 2020

Macron arrives at scene of Nice attack

French President Emmanuel Macron visits the scene of the knife attack in Nice.
French President Emmanuel Macron visits the scene of the knife attack in Nice. Eric Gaillard/Pool/AFP/Getty Images

French President Emmanuel Macron has arrived at Notre Dame de Nice, the church where three people were killed in a knife attack Thursday morning.

Macron has been accompanied by the Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin, Justice Minister Eric Dupond-Moretti, anti-terror prosecutor Jean-François Ricard and Mgr Éric de Moulins-Beaufort, President of the French Bishops' Council (CEF), the president's office said.

Macron’s office also said he would meet security personnel and rescue teams at the scene, as well as Nice mayor Christian Estrosi and parliament representatives Cédric Roussel and Eric Ciotti.

9:10 a.m. ET, October 29, 2020

Pope praying for victims of Nice attack, Vatican says

Pope Francis is pictured during the general audience at Vatican City, on October 28.
Pope Francis is pictured during the general audience at Vatican City, on October 28. Vatican Media Handout/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

Pope Francis is praying for victims of the deadly knife attack in Nice, the Vatican said in a statement on Thursday.

“Terrorism and violence can never be accepted,” the statement read. “Today’s attack has sown death in a place of love and consolation.”

The Vatican said the Pope has been informed of the situation and "is close to the grieving Catholic community."

The Pope prays “that the beloved French people can react to evil with good,” the statement said.

8:54 a.m. ET, October 29, 2020

Nice attack is second major incident in France in two weeks, and comes amid growing tensions

A police officer stands in front of a portrait of Samuel Paty, in Montpellier, France, on October 21. Paty was killed earlier this month.
A police officer stands in front of a portrait of Samuel Paty, in Montpellier, France, on October 21. Paty was killed earlier this month. Pascal Guyot/AFP/Getty Images

The knife attack in Nice is the second major incident in France in just 13 days, coming with the country still reeling from the slaying of a teacher, Samuel Paty, who was beheaded after using caricatures of Islam's Prophet Muhammad during a lesson.

Abdoullakh Abouyezidovitch, an 18-year-old Chechen refugee, took credit for the beheading of Paty, 47, who taught history and geography at a school in Paris. Police killed the teen in Éragny, the same Paris suburb where Paty's body was found.

Paty had taught a class on freedom of expression, during which he used caricatures of the prophet taken from Charlie Hebdo, sparking controversy in the weeks preceding his death, authorities said.

His murder caused France's long-simmering tensions over secularism, Islamism and religious equality to again erupt into public view -- five years after a massacre at the offices of satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, which had previously published controversial cartoons depicting the Prophet Mohammed.

President Macron paid tribute to the teacher, whom he said was "killed because he was teaching students freedom of speech, the freedom to believe and not believe." Thousands gathered to celebrate free speech and decry violence in a number of demonstrations across the country.

But an international flare-up over the treatment of Muslims in France broke out after the attack.

Turkey has been particularly critical of Macron's handling of tensions in the country, saying on Wednesday that "we are going through a time in which anti-Islam and Muslim hatred is spreading like cancer among leaders in Europe."

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan also said in the past week that Macron needs “mental treatment” over his attitude towards Muslims in France, prompting the French government to withdraw its ambassador from Ankara.

The Turkish Foreign Ministry condemned Thursday's attack in Nice, saying: "There is no reason that can justify killing a person or justify violence. It is clear that those who organized such a brutal attack in a holy place of worship do not have any religious, humanitarian and moral values."

8:43 a.m. ET, October 29, 2020

What we know about the knife attack in Nice

Further details are emerging about the knife attack in Nice. Here's a summary of what we know right now.

The incident

At least three people were killed in Nice, southern France, during a knife attack at the Notre Dame Basilica, the city's main church.

Videos posted on social media showed police and military officers responding to the incident, setting up a cordon in the city center.

The victims

One of the victims had her throat slit, a police source told CNN. The mayor of Nice had earlier described it as a decapitation.

Another victim – a man – died following multiple stabbings, according to the police source.

The third victim, a woman, was wounded inside the church, but managed to leave. However, she died in a nearby café, the police source said.

The suspect

Nice's mayor Christian Estrosi said the attacker was shot by police, but is still alive and has been taken into custody.

Estrosi said "everything points" to the incident being a terrorist attack, and France's anti-terrorism prosecutor has taken over the investigation.

He added that the suspect kept repeating the words "‘Allahu Akbar in front of us" while being treated by medics. “There is no doubt that the perpetrator of the attack … what his intentions were,” the mayor said.

The reaction

French President Emmanuel Macron will travel to Nice later on Thursday, and Prime Minister Jean Castex has promised a "firm" response. The country's terror alert level was raised to "emergency" following the incident.

The "emergency" level means the “maximum level of vigilance” is necessary in case of an imminent threat or immediately after an attack, according to a French government website.

International leaders haved pledged solidarity with France, with the heads of Spain, Italy, Turkey, the UK and the European Parliament among those condemning the violence. The French Council of the Muslim Faith has also condemned the incident.

The background

The incident is the latest in a number of attacks to hit France in recent years, and comes less than two weeks after the beheading of teacher Samuel Paty in Paris. Paty was targeted after he used caricatures of Islam's Prophet Muhammad during a lesson.

Nice has been the target of terror in the past. In 2016 dozens died after an ISIS-inspired attacker plowed a 20-ton truck into Bastille Day crowds.

8:49 a.m. ET, October 29, 2020

French PM pledges "firm" response and raises terror alert level

French Prime Minister Jean Castex speaks at the National Assembly in Paris on October 29.
French Prime Minister Jean Castex speaks at the National Assembly in Paris on October 29. Bertrand Guay/AFP/Getty Images

The Prime Minister of France, Jean Castex, has said the government’s response to the Nice attack will be “firm, implacable, and immediate," adding that the country’s security alert level is being raised to "emergency."

The "emergency" level means the “maximum level of vigilance” is necessary in case of an imminent threat or immediately after an attack, according to a French government website.

France’s Defense and National Security Council will meet Friday morning, Castex said.

Speaking in the French parliament on Thursday, he also paid tribute to the three people who died.

“Three of our compatriots were assassinated with a knife in abject circumstances,” he said.

“In these tragic times, our thoughts go to the families, to their relatives, to Nice parishioners but also more broadly to the whole Catholic community that was intentionally targeted.”

The nation “shares their pain,” Castex said.

8:58 a.m. ET, October 29, 2020

Turkey “strongly condemns" church attack and declares solidarity with France 

From CNN’s Isil Sariyuce in Istanbul and Mostafa Salem in Abu Dhabi

The Turkish Foreign Ministry “strongly condemns” the attack on a church in the French city of Nice and offered their “condolences to the relatives of those who lost their lives”, a statement said. 

“There is no reason that can justify killing a person or justify violence. It is clear that those who organized such a brutal attack in a holy place of worship do not have any religious, humanitarian and moral values,” the statement said. 

“As a country that struggles with different types of terrorism and loses its citizens due to terrorism, we emphasize that we are in solidarity with the French people, especially the residents of Nice, against terrorism and violence,” it added. 

Relations between French President Emmanuel Macron and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan are increasingly tense. In the past week Erdogan said that Macron needs “mental treatment” over his attitude towards Muslims in France, prompting the French government to withdraw its ambassador from Ankara. 

French President Emmanuel Macron and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan
French President Emmanuel Macron and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan AFP/Getty Images

8:51 a.m. ET, October 29, 2020

One victim in Nice had "throat slit," police source says

From CNN's Barbara Wojazer in Paris

Forensics officers work at the site of a knife attack as French soldiers stand guard in Nice.
Forensics officers work at the site of a knife attack as French soldiers stand guard in Nice. Valery Hache/AFP/Getty Images

One of the victims of the Nice terror attack in France had her throat slit, a police source has told CNN.

The local mayor had earlier described it as a decapitation.

According to the police source, one of the other victims – a man – died following multiple stabbings.

The third victim, a woman, was wounded inside the church, but managed to leave. However, she died in a nearby café, the police source said.