An attacker armed with a knife beheaded a woman and killed two other people at Notre-Dame Church in Nice, France.
The man entered the building and slit the throat of a church worker, partially beheaded an elderly woman and seriously injured another woman, according to a police source.
The employee and the elderly woman died on the spot, the other woman made it out of the church to a nearby cafe, but later died of her injuries, the mayor of Nice said Christian Estrosi to reporters at the scene. None of the victims have so far been named.
The sacristan – a member of the church maintenance staff – was in his 40s or early 50s.
Prosecutors consider the assault to be an act of terrorism.
When did the attack take place?
The attack took place around 9 a.m. local time (8 a.m. GMT) on Thursday, and it came just days after thousands of people gathered across France in solidarity with teacher Samuel Paty, beheaded for have shown the students cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad.
It was not immediately clear whether Thursday’s attack was linked to the cartoons, which Muslims consider blasphemous.
Who is behind the attack?
According to information from the French news agency AFP, the man suspected of the attack is a 21-year-old Tunisian who arrived in Europe a few weeks ago, sources close to the investigation said.
The suspect landed in late September on the Italian island of Lampedusa, where he was placed in viral quarantine by authorities before being released on orders to leave Italian territory.
He arrived in France in early October, according to sources.
“The alleged knife attacker was shot dead by police while in custody. He’s on his way to the hospital, he’s alive, ”Mayor Estrosi told reporters.
Was it a single attack?
Further clashes and attacks were reported in the city of Avignon, in southern France, where police killed a man who threatened passers-by with a handgun.
Shortly after the Nice attack, Lyon city police said they arrested an Afghan who was seen carrying a 30cm (12 inch) knife as he attempted to board a tram .
In Saudi Arabia, state television reported that a Saudi man was arrested in the Red Sea city of Jeddah after attacking and injuring a guard at the French consulate. The French Embassy said the guard was in hospital when his life was not in danger.
President Emmanuel Macron visited Nice after the attack calling it an “Islamist terrorist attack”.
Macron announced increased surveillance of churches by the French Sentinel military patrols, which would be increased to 7,000 men against 3,000.
“Obviously, it is France that is under attack,” he said. “If we are attacked, it is because of our values.”
Prime Minister Jean Castex took France’s security alert to its highest level and said the government’s response would be firm and relentless.
In Paris, the legislators of the National Assembly observed a minute of silence in solidarity with the victims. The mayor of Paris, Anne Hidalgo, declared that the people of Nice “can count on the support of the city of Paris and of the Parisians”.
A representative of the French Council for the Muslim Faith strongly condemned the attack. “As a sign of mourning and solidarity with the victims and their loved ones, I call on all Muslims in France to cancel all celebrations for Mawlid’s Day.”
The holiday is the birthday of Prophet Muhammad and was celebrated on Thursday.
World leaders expressed their solidarity with France after the attack.