Police and soldiers immediately cordoned off the 7th arrondissement of Lyon in search of the gunman and then made an arrest. The priest, who is believed to be a 52-year-old Greek national, was shutting down the church when the man with a cut-off shotgun shot him several times, hitting him twice in the stomach.
French television reports that this appears to be a “personal dispute”. Police say they are looking at all the grounds, but advise reporters not to jump to conclusions that the incident is “terror” related, despite tensions and the high level of alert in France.
French counterterrorism police were still questioning three men on Saturday in connection with the Nice attack as they tried to piece together the killer’s movements and establish if he had any accomplices.
A 47-year-old man, taken into police custody a few hours after the attack on Thursday and who was said to have been in contact with the cutler Brahim Issaoui the day before, is still being held. Investigators did not give further details on the arrests of two other men, aged 33 and 35.
Issaoui, a 21-year-old Tunisian who killed the three people in the city’s Notre-Dame basilica, remains in serious condition in hospital after being shot dead by police inside the church. Issaoui was originally named Aouissaoui based on an Italian Red Cross document he was carrying, but his correct identity was confirmed by his family in Bou Hajla near Sfax in Tunisia.
Over the weekend, shocked and distressed residents continued to lay flowers in front of the Notre-Dame de l’Assomption Basilica. In the crowd, a woman’s cry rose like a collective moan: “Why us? Why us again?
It was a feeling that reverberated throughout France. The Nice murders hit a country already shaken by the beheading of a history teacher outside his high school near Paris less than two weeks earlier. Samuel Paty, 47, showed students two caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad as part of a discussion on free speech. Reprint of Charlie Hebdo the cartoons have sparked a wave of anti-French protests in Islamic countries and France is on high alert.
On Saturday, President Emmanuel Macron tried to calm anti-French protests during a 55-minute interview with Al Jazeera. Macron said he “understands the feelings of Muslims in the face of the prophet’s cartoons”. “The cartoons are not a government project but rather the product of free and independent newspapers that are not affiliated with the government.”
He added: “I think the reactions were due to the lies and false statements and because people think I am in favor of these cartoons.”
As the government began to expel individuals and dissolve organizations it accused of promoting “Islamism” – which in French means “Islamist fundamentalism” – following Paty’s murder on October 16, the attack Nice terrorist came to a country that was still broken down. Hours later, a new strict national Covid-19 lockdown went into effect, adding to a sense of despondency.
Discouragement was particularly acute in Nice. In five years, the Riviera city has suffered three terrorist attacks. In February 2015, three soldiers patrolling outside a Jewish community center in Nice were injured by a man pledging allegiance to the Islamic State. In 2016, a terrorist drove a truck through the crowd celebrating July 14, killing 86 people and injuring 458.
Last week had started with Turkey and France exchanging verbal blows and anti-Macron protests after the French president insisted newspapers and magazines like Charlie Hebdo had the right to publish contested cartoons. In the middle of the week, it was, according to the Minister of the Interior, Gérard Darmanin, “a war”, not of words but of ideologies. Then came Nice.
A lone candle on the granite sidewalk next to a small cluster of primroses marked the spot where Simone Barreto Silva, 44, collapsed from her knife wounds. It was here at the Unik kebab shop, under the supervision of paramedics, that she said her last words: “Tell my children that I love them”.
Michel Atiah, head waiter at the nearby Le Socrate restaurant, described Silva as the life and soul of the party. “She was a charming woman and very popular in the neighborhood.”
Another regular at the Socrates was Vincent Loquès, the sacristan of the church, who died inside the basilica. “We have seen it often. Vincent was a lovely and gentle man who used to eat here regularly.
“It’s a mixed community – I’m from Syria. We all deplore this action. Nice was shaken by what happened yesterday and by what happened on the seafront four years ago. But it is important to remember that they are lone wolves, not representative of the Islamic community.
On Saturday, the killer’s first victim was named Nadine Devillers, 60. “She often went to pray for the people she loved. Every now and then she would light a candle. He was someone who loved others, gave everything for others, ”said his friend Joëlle Guichard. Nice morning journal.
Inevitably, the far right has called for deportations and a moratorium on immigration from some countries that organize anti-French protests. Marine Le Pen called these attacks “acts of war” requiring a warlike response. During a rally in Nice on Thursday evening, his supporters chanted for Muslims to “go home”, and in the Alsace Lorraine street near the basilica, demonstrators knocked on the windows of a North African restaurant.
“It’s not a smart approach to take,” said Nathalie, who works at Brunet bakery on the same street. “Taking retaliation against innocent people is not going to correct the act of a lonely fool.”
She added: “Mr. Loquès came here almost every day for his baguettes. He was a kind and gentle man. I don’t think we risk being overwhelmed with hatred, rather with an outburst of anger. We must beware of this.
On Sunday, French soldiers, police and gendarmes will be sent to protect churches and other places of worship for the Toussaint – All Saints – vacation.
In Trappes, southwest of Paris in the Yvelines – the department where Paty was killed and which has a large Muslim community – officials and religious leaders will plant an olive tree outside the Catholic church.
Ali Rabeh, the mayor of Trappes, said it was a “symbolic gesture of solidarity” with the Catholic community. Rabeh warned politicians against escalating war rhetoric and stigmatizing “99.9% of French Muslims who are calm, peaceful and don’t want to disturb anyone.”
“The political atmosphere is becoming more and more accusatory. Every time there is an attack, ordinary Muslims feel that the finger is pointed at them, that they bear the brunt of the accusations, ”Rabeh told the Observer. He said he was dismayed to find that his father, a Muslim who came to France from Morocco 50 years ago and had worked “to help build this country” for more than four decades, “now feels he must bow his head when he goes shopping ”.