Thursday Oct 29, 2020
Pakistan on Thursday strongly condemned the knife attack carried outside a church in France's Nice city, saying there is no justification for such violence.
"We express our condolences on the loss of precious lives and sympathise with the bereaved families," said a statement issued by the Foreign Office.
"There is no justification for such acts of violence, in particular in places of worship," the statement added.
A man wielding a knife killed at least three people, slitting the throat of one of them, and wounding several others in a stabbing spree outside a church in Nice, French police said Thursday, with the country raising its threat level to the highest.
Authorities had initially confirmed two dead in the attack at the Basilica of Notre-Dame but a police source said a third person after seeking refuge in a nearby bar had also succumbed to their wounds.
Police managed to detain the attacker around 9am and France's national anti-terror prosecutors confirmed having opened a murder inquiry. The situation "is now under control", a spokeswoman said.
Nice Mayor Christian Estrosi told journalists near the basilica that the assailant kept repeating the same words "even while under medication".
"I can confirm everything lets us think this was a terror attack in the Notre-Dame Basilica", he said on Twitter, adding that French President Emmanuel Macron would be arriving shortly in Nice, just days before French Catholics mark the All Saint's Day holiday on November 1.
Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin called an emergency meeting, urging people to avoid the crime scene where a "police operation" was in progress.
Father Philippe Asso, who serves at the basilica, told AFP that while there was no mass underway, the church opens around 8am and "people come in to pray at all hours".
Daniel Conilh, a 32-year-old waiter at the Grand Cafe de Lyon, a block from the church, said it was shortly before 9am when "shots were fired and everybody took off running".
"A woman came in straight from the church and said, 'Run, run, someone has been stabbing people'," he told AFP, and dozens of police and rescue vehicles quickly sealed off the neighbourhood.
Shortly afterwards, a Saudi man was arrested for allegedly attacking a guard "with sharp tool" at the French consulate in Jeddah, the Kingdom's media and Parisian embassy confirmed on Thursday.
The French embassy said the guard "was taken to hospital and his life is not in danger".
"The assailant was apprehended by Saudi security forces immediately after the attack," they added.
France has been on high alert for terror attacks since the January 15 massacre at the satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo, with the trial of suspected accomplices in that attack underway in Paris.
Back in September, when tensions shot up due to the trial of suspected accomplices in the Charlie Hebdo attack, an 18-year-old man seriously injured two people with a meat cleaver outside the publication's former offices in Paris.
A wave of extremist attacks on French soil, often by so-called "lone wolf" assailants, have since killed more than 250 people across France.
The latest assault prompted lawmakers in parliament to hold a minute of silence, before Prime Minister Jean Castex and other ministers abruptly left for an emergency meeting with President Emmanuel Macron.
In France's Nice, painful memories remain fresh of a 2016 attack during the Bastille Day fireworks, when a man had rammed his truck into a crowded promenade, killing 86 people.
Just a few days later, two teenagers murdered an 85-year-old priest as he conducted mass at his church in Saint-Etienne-du-Rouvray in northern France, an attack later claimed by Daesh.
Thursday's attack drew condemnation from France's allies, with Germany's Angela Merkel voicing solidarity with France and EU Parliament President David Sassoli saying the pain was "felt by all of us in Europe".
"We have a duty to stand together against violence and those that seek to incite and spread hatred," he said on Twitter.
Italy's Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte condemned a "vile attack" but vowed it "will not shake the common front defending the values of freedom and peace".
Abdallah Zekri, director general of the French Council of Muslim Worship (CFCM), said: "I can only denounce as strongly as possible this act of cowardice against the innocent."
Zekri called on French Muslims to cancel festivities to mark Holy Prophet Muhammad's (PBUH) birthday — which ends Thursday — "in solidarity with the victims and their loved ones."
Mayor Estrosi, meanwhile, called for churches around the country to be given added security or to be closed as a precaution.
The Nice attack comes just days after thousands rallied across France in solidarity with a teacher who was beheaded for showing pupils cartoons of Holy Prophet Muhammad (PBUH).
Samuel Paty, the history teacher, was killed by Abdullakh Anzorov, an 18-year-old Chechen man who committed the gruesome crime outside Paty's school in a Paris suburb.
Paty's murder prompted Macron to promise a crackdown on religious extremism, a move that has inflamed tensions in Islamic countries around the world, with many Muslims in the nation saying the French president is unfairly targeting them.
Moreover, anti-France protests have erupted in several Muslim countries, with some urging a boycott of French goods, and tensions have flared in particular between Macron and Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who is aided by Pakistan's Prime Minister Imran Khan.
A day earlier, PM Imran Khan had through a letter urged Muslim leaders to collectively raise their voice and break the cycle of hate and extremism between the Muslim and Western worlds.
“We, as leaders of Muslim polities, must take the initiative to call for an end to this cycle of hate and violence,” he wrote, in a letter shared on Twitter.
—Additional input from AFP