2nd Man Is Arrested Over Knife Assault in Good
PARIS – French authorities announced on Friday that they had arrested a man suspected of being in contact with an attacker who killed three people in a church in Nice on Thursday. This attack rocked the country and rekindled fear of terrorism as officials accused some foreigners of leaders of hatred of France.
A French judiciary official who was not empowered to speak publicly about an ongoing investigation said the suspect, a 47-year-old man, was arrested Thursday evening but did not provide any further details. French security forces routinely use a wide field to arrest and question the family, friends and contacts of suspects following an attack.
Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin said France faces a high level terrorism threat and is “particularly targeted” because he described the country as a staunch defense of freedom of expression and secularism.
Debates over cartoons of Prophet Muhammad have strained France’s relations with some Muslim-majority countries since a Muslim beheaded a teacher in a suburb of Paris this month.
In the attack on Thursday, a man entered the Notre Dame Basilica in Nice shortly after it opened that morning and fatally attacked three people with a 7-inch knife. Two similar knives were found near his pocket, which was left in the church.
Police confronted the attacker at the church during the attack and shot and wounded him. The suspect, a Tunisian in his early twenties, is still in the hospital.
It was not immediately clear how the second arrested person could be linked to the attack or what contacts he had with the main suspect, who was not known to the French police or the French secret services.
Mr Darmanin, the interior minister, informed RTL Radio on Friday that the main suspect had come to Italy from Tunisia last month and then apparently traveled to France hours or days before the attack.
One of the victims, a 60-year-old woman, had her throat cut so deep that it was like beheading, according to France’s chief anti-terrorist prosecutor.
Another victim, Vincent Loquès, a 55-year-old man who was the church’s sacristan, also had serious neck injuries. The third victim – a 44-year-old Brazilian woman who, according to the Brazilian authorities, lives in France – escaped the basilica but died shortly afterwards of her wounds.
Mr Darmanin also said he warned local security agencies across the country of heightened security risks last Sunday after a group near al-Qaeda issued a statement urging people to target French destinations, including churches and Messages to attack.
In a separate attack on Thursday, an attacker wielding a knife wounded a security guard outside a French consulate in Saudi Arabia.
The attack in Nice resembled the recent murder of Samuel Paty, a 47-year-old school teacher, near Paris. He was beheaded by an 18-year-old Muslim man who was upset that Mr. Paty had shown cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad in class.
After the attack, the reaction of French officials resulted in verbal attacks from some Muslim leaders. French officials are increasingly outraged by these attacks.
Mr Darmanin selected a few leaders who had promoted “extremely strong calls for hatred” against France in recent weeks, including “absolutely scandalous” comments from Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan who questioned President Emmanuel Macron’s mental health Has.
On Thursday, Mahathir Mohamad, a former Prime Minister of Malaysia, said in a tweet later removed that Muslims had the right to “kill millions of French people for past massacres”.
Mr. Darmanin said, “We are at war and we face an enemy who is both an internal and an external enemy. We are not waging war against a religion, but against an ideology, the Islamist ideology. “
And Jean-Yves Le Drian, France’s Foreign Minister, said in parliament on Thursday that France could not accept “disinformation and manipulation campaigns” against France from those who “portray our commitment to fundamental freedoms as an attack on religious freedom”.
The transition from “virtual hatred to real violence” is quick, said Le Drian. But he also sent a “message of peace to the Muslim world”.
“France is not the land of contempt or rejection – it is the land of tolerance,” he said. “Do not listen to voices that are supposed to arouse suspicion. The Muslim religion and culture are part of our French and European history. “
Economy Minister Bruno Le Maire told France Inter Radio on Friday that he does not like the use of cartoons of the Islamic prophet. “But I’ll be the first to defend those who made them and those who distribute them,” he said.
Nice, a city on the French Riviera near the Italian border, has been traumatized several times by terrorist attacks. In one of France’s deadliest attacks in 2016, a Tunisian killed 86 people while driving a truck through crowds that had gathered in the city to watch the fireworks on Bastille Day.
Christian Estrosi, the city’s mayor, told Radio Europe 1 on Friday that he was angry after the attack and called on France to amend its constitution if necessary to pass tough anti-terrorism laws.
Just as the French are foregoing certain freedoms due to the coronavirus pandemic – the country entered into a nationwide lockdown on Friday that will last at least a month – they should be ready to do the same to stop terrorism, Estrosi said .
“Islam fascism is a virus,” he said. “We have permanent bombs on our territory that could explode at any moment.”