A KNIFEMAN shot dead in the French city of Avignon was part of a far-right group and made a Nazi-salute after waving a handgun at passersby, cops said.
Police in the French city confirmed that the suspect was part of the Identarian Movement – a notoriously Islamophobic and anti-Muslim group with members all over Europe.
It has a youth group called Generation Identity which operates in countries including France and Britain.
A local police spokesman said: “He was nothing to do with Islam, and had not been shouting out religious slogans.
“He refused to drop his weapon, and a flash-ball shot failed to stop him, so he was shot with live ammunition.
“The suspect’s identity has now been confirmed and he was a member of the Identarian Movement.”
The source said the man made a Nazi salute before being shot, and wore an Identarian Movement T-shirt, and carried a membership card.
It was initially reported by French media this morning that a man had shouted “Allahu Akbar”, before he was killed – though this was refuted by local police.
No other casualties were reported.
It comes as a Saudi man was arrested in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia after attacking a guard at the French consulate – just hours after a terror attack in Nice left three people dead.
In Jeddah, the French embassy said the consulate was subject to “an attack by knife which targeted a guard”, The Independent reports.
While police sources named the suspect in the Nice attack as Brahim Aoussaoui, a 21-year-old Tunisian who had arrived in Europe just weeks ago and has been pictured for the first time.
France’s state prosecutor said tonight that the killer used a 12-inch knife to slaughter three church-goers and is in hospital with serious injuries after being shot by cops.
He wasn’t known to the security services and arrived in Paris from Italy on October 9 after arriving at the Italian island of Lampedusa on September 20.
The suspect changed his clothes after arriving in Nice by train before arriving at the church at 8.29am before butchering the three church-goers over half an hour.
The first victim has been named as Vincent Loquès, 54, the church warden.
France’s state prosecutor Jean-Francois Ricard said tonight that the body of a second victim, a 60-year-old woman, was found strangled and decapitated in the church.
A third victim, a 44-year-old woman, fled from the church at 8.54am but died in a cafe nearby from her wounds.
Four armed local police officers cops then stormed Notre-Dame – the largest Roman Catholic church in Nice – and shot the suspected terrorist as he yelled “Allahu akbar”, wounding him at around 9am local time.
He was taken to hospital with serious wounds as anti-terrorist police launched an investigation into the bloody rampage.
Nice mayor Christian Estrosi said the attacker kept shouting “Allahu Akbar” even after he had been shot – and said it has all the hallmarks of a “terror attack“.
What we know so far:
- Three dead – one beheaded – in suspected terror attack at Basilica of Notre-Dame in Nice, France
- Suspect has been named as Brahim Aoussaoui – reportedly a 21-year-old Tunisian
- The first victim has been named as Vincent Loquès, 54, the church warden
- Emmanuel Macron denounces violence as an “Islamic terror attack” and deploys 7,000 soldiers to the streets of France
- Knifeman doing a “Nazi salute” shot dead in Avignon after threatening police hours after attack in Nice
- Security guard stabbed by attacker at the French consulate in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia
- Fears of an attempted “copycat attack” after man with knife pulled over near church in Paris
- Man arrested with a 12-inch knife at a tram stop in Lyon
- France has provoked fury over its refusal to condemn cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed published by Charlie Hebdo
- Mass protests have been seen in many Muslim countries and calls for boycotts of French goods
- Incidents follow double stabbing in Paris near old Charlie Hebdo office in September 24 and the beheading of teacher Charles Paty on October 16
He said: “Enough is enough. It’s time now for France to exonerate itself from the laws of peace in order to definitively wipe out Islamo-fascism from our territory.”
It comes amid heightened security fears in France due to the ongoing row over cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed published by satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo.
Samuel Paty, 47, was beheaded by 18-year-old Abdullah Anzorov on October 17 after using the cartoons to teach his students about the importance of free speech.
Mayor Estrosi said the victims had been killed in a “horrible way” and added: “The methods match, without doubt, those used against the brave teacher”.
He also called for churches around France to be given extra protection or closed as a precaution.
The latest attack on Nice also comes after 86 people were killed in the city when a terrorist rammed a 19-tonne cargo truck through crowds on Bastille Day in July 2016.
France is experiencing a new wave of terror attacks, and President Emmanuel Macron has pledged to take a tough line on Islamic extremism.
Pictures from the scene showed heavily armed cops from the tactical RAID unit storming the church and standing guard following the bloodshed.
Other images showed people weeping as France comes to terms with yet more terrorist violence.
Today’s suspected terror attack is the third in little over a month.
Follows both the murder of Paty and the stabbing of two people outside the former offices of Charlie Hebdo in Paris.
Explosions were heard as the bomb squad detonated suspicious items found inside the church.
The French anti-terrorist prosecutor’s department said it had been asked to investigate the attack.
It said attacker is suspected of assassination in connection with a terrorist enterprise, attempted assassination in connection with a terrorist enterprise, and criminal terrorist association.
A representative of the French Council for the Muslim Faith strongly condemned the attack.
In a statement, they said: “As a sign of mourning and solidarity with the victims and their loved ones, I call on all Muslims in France to cancel all the celebrations of the holiday of Mawlid.”.
The holiday is the birthday of the Prophet Mohammad, which is being celebrated Thursday.
Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte condemned the “vile attack”- and said it “will not shake the common front defending the values of freedom and peace.”
He added: “Our convictions are stronger than fanaticism, hatred and terror.”
History teacher Paty was was posthumously given the Legion d’Honneur – France’s highest award – and French president Emmanuel Macron insisted the country would “not give up our cartoons”.
Prophet Mohammed cartoons have been displayed in France in solidarity with Paty to defend what many in the country see as its values of free speech and secularism.
Macron has said he would redouble efforts to stop conservative Islamic beliefs subverting French values – which has angered many Muslims.
France has launched a crackdown on what it perceives to be radical Islam, announcing it has searched more than 120 homes and closed down a mosque in Pantin.
Paty, a history and geography teacher, is being seen as a champion of free speech by many in France after his brutal death.
The image he showed to students was the same one published by Charlie Hebdo that sparked the attack on the magazine’s offices that killed 12.
Nine people – including members of the attacker’s family – have been arrested over his death.
His killing came after another knife attack near the former offices of Charlie Hebdo just weeks prior – in which the suspect is believed to have tried to target the magazine.
Yesterday, Iranian president Hassan Rouhani warned the row over the cartoons could lead to “violence and bloodshed”.
He said: “It’s a surprise that this would come from those claiming culture and democracy, that they would somehow, even if unintentionally, encourage violence and bloodshed.”
Rouhani added: “Westerners must understand the great Prophet of Islam is loved by all Muslims and freedom-lovers of the world.
“Insulting the Prophet is insulting all Muslims. Insulting the Prophet is insulting all prophets, human values, and amounts to undermining ethic.”