On the morning of October 29, 2020, a man entered the Notre Dame de l’Assomption Basilica in Nice, France and killed three people. The alleged attacker, Brahim Aouissaoui, screamed “Allahu Akbar”, and beheaded an elderly woman and killed two other people.
Brahim’s attack left worshipper Nadine Devillers (60) and the church sexton Vincent Loquès (55) dead. The third victim, 44-year-old Simone Barreto Silva, died of fatal injuries received in the stabbing. Silva managed to escape the scene but collapsed at a nearby restaurant where she died.
Four responding officers arrived at the scene and tasered Brahim before shooting him. The police reportedly fired 14 shots. He was immediately taken to the hospital as he suffered serious injuries. Police are still waiting to interview him in the hospital.
In its investigation so far, the French police have arrested three more men in connection with the terrorist attack in Nice, bringing the number of people taken in for questioning to six. A young Tunisian man was arrested on Saturday in Grasse, and two other men aged 63 and 25 were later taken into custody from the same address. The French police also arrested two men on Saturday.
Police said the data from two telephones recovered from Brahim’s possession and CCTV footage suggest he arrived in Nice late on October 27 on a train from Rome. He is said to have arrived in the city anywhere between 24-48 hours before the attack on Thursday morning. Police also recovered the large knife that Brahim allegedly used to kill the three people. Reportedly, he had two more knives and a Quran in a backpack. Security at churches across France has been beefed up.
French President Emmanuel Macron and Nice’s mayor Christian Estrosi termed the killings a terrorist attack and attributed it to Islamic extremism. Meanwhile, over a hundred prominent Indians including actor Nasiruddin Shah, lyricist Javed Akhtar, lawyer-activist Prashant Bhushan and writer-activist Tushar Gandhi unequivocally condemned the recent killings in France in the name of religion. Prime Minister Narendra Modi also expressed solidarity over the attacks in France.
However, according to the Associated Press, hundreds of protesters in Pakistan burned effigies of France’s leader and chanted anti-French slogans on Sunday, as President Emmanuel Macron tried to send a message of understanding to Muslims around the world. Smaller demonstrations in Lebanon, Turkey and India, mostly led by Islamist groups, followed the anti-France protests across the Muslim world last week.
The renewed protests came after President Macron’s interview late Saturday in which he said that he understood the shock Muslims felt at caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad. He was speaking with the Qatar-based TV station Al-Jazeera, where he also defended the freedom of expression and France’s secular values.
In India, cities like Ahmedabad, Mumbai and Bhopal saw protests as well. In Ahmedabad, protesters pasted photographs of Macron on the streets at night, leaving them for pedestrians and passing vehicles to go over on Sunday. In Mumbai, Muslim groups held anti-France protests on Friday as well in Madhya Pradesh’s capital Bhopal.