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Terrorist attack at the Nice cathedral: A far-reaching investigation

CÔTE D'AZUR & PROVENCE

A bloody attack occurred in the Notre-Dame Basilica on Nice's busy shopping street Jean-Médecin. Photo: Mister No, Basilique Notre-Dame - panoramio (1), CC BY 3.0The heinous attack that took place last week in Nice shocked the local community and the world. Investigators have discovered that the attacker had only arrived in France two days before and are uncovering a web of local contacts. Two men from Grasse were arrested on Saturday. Here is what we know so far... 

On Thursday, 29 October shortly before 9 am, a terrorist attacked churchgoers at the Notre Dame Cathedral in Nice. Wielding multiple knives, the 21-year-old attacker attempted to behead a woman praying, gutted the guardian of the church and wounded several other people. A third victim who fled to a café nearby for help quickly succumbed to her injuries.

Another wounded person ran to the nearby ‘Help’ buttons that are installed throughout the city and police arrived on the scene within minutes and secured the scene, non-lethally shooting the attacker and taking him into custody. He currently remains in critical condition in hospital.

Mayor Chrisitan Estrosi quickly took the airwaves to denounce the attacks and the growing “Islamo-Fascism” within France and needs to “smash” it. He also repeated his calls for more regional control of armed forces, pointing out that the terrorist was taken down by the local municipal police.

President Emmanuel Macron has stated “France is under attack” and strongly defended the national values of freedom of expression, adding: “we will not give up on our values.” He arrived at the scene later that afternoon.

Macron has more than doubled the number of ‘Sentinelles’ special forces to be stationed at churches and schools across the country.

A representative from the French Council for the Muslim Faith immediately condemned the attack and requested that all celebrations in France for the Mawlid holiday (the birthday of the Prophet) be cancelled "as a sign of mourning and solidarity with the victims and their loved ones."

Mayors throughout the region expressed their solidarity with Nice. Cannes Mayor, David Lisnard, stated: “Another appalling and hideous Islamist attack. In a church in Nice. Of course, I feel fear and emotion, but that's exactly what the terrorists want. It is, therefore, necessary to eradicate this scourge with determination." He had the flags hoisted at half-mast in the city.

Jérôme Viaud, Mayor of Grasse, immediately tweeted: “Grasse joins the pain of the people of Nice. I assure you of my heartfelt solidarity. Thoughts go to the three victims (...) and their families. "

The investigation into the attack is still ongoing and increasing in size and scope. The attacker had only recently arrived in Europe. The young Tunisian was registered as arriving in Lampedusa on 20 September and was expelled from Italy at the beginning of October. All of his known contacts are being investigated and six men have been arrested. This past Saturday, two men from Grasse, who are known contacts of the assailant were arrested. On Sunday, three men previously arrested were released after concluding they were not involved. Three remain in custody, including a man thought to have arrived with the attacker.

This attack came only two weeks after a teacher was beheaded outside of Paris for showing students Charlie Hebdo cartoons during a class on freedom of expression. It was also not the only attack on Thursday. Three attacks were carried out, in Avignon and at a French consulate in Saudi Arabia. Macron’s response of ‘standing by our cartoons’ caused outrage in many Muslim countries. Protests were held in front of French consulates, including Pakistan and Israel. Turkish president, Erdogan, called for an international Boycott of French goods which has been echoed throughout the Muslim world, which views the country's stance on the cartoons as anti-Muslim.  The political climate remains tense.

French police are working closely with Italian police to track the movements of the attacker any possible associates.