The Latest: Prosecutor: attacker not on intelligence radar

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A man prays in the street outside the Notre Dame church in Nice, southern France, after a knife attack took place on Thursday, Oct. 29, 2020. An attacker armed with a knife killed at least three people at a church in the Mediterranean city of Nice, prompting the prime minister to announce that France was raising its security alert status to the highest level. (AP Photo/Daniel Cole)

PARIS – The Latest on a knife attack in Nice, France, (all times local):

10:25 p.m.

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France’s anti-terrorism prosecutor says the Nice attacker, who was born in 1999, was not on the radar of intelligence agencies as a potential threat.

Jean-Francois Ricard detailed the gruesome scene inside the church where a man and woman were killed by the attacker Thursday. The third victim, a 44-year-old woman who managed to flee, died at a nearby restaurant.

A 60-year-old woman whose body was found at the entry of the church, suffered “a very deep throat slitting, like a decapitation,” Ricard said. The 55-year-old man also died after deep cuts to his throat.

An investigation was opened for murder and attempted murder in connection with a terrorist enterprise, a common term for such crimes.

A Muslim holy book and two telephones were among the things found on the attacker. Also found was the knife used in the attack, with a 17-centimeter (6.7-inch) blade, Ricard said. A bag with the attacker's personal affairs was found to contain another two unused knives.


10:20 p.m.

France’s anti-terrorism prosecutor says the man who killed three in a Nice church was a Tunisian aged about 20 who entered France from Italy, and was carrying a copy of Islam’s holy book, the Quran, on him at the time of the attack.

Jean-Francois Ricard told a press conference late Thursday that the man arrived in Italy by reaching the Mediterranean island of Lampedusa on Sept. 20, and traveled to Paris on Oct. 9.

The travel information came from a document on the man from the Italian Red Cross, Ricard said. The attacker was seriously wounded by police, who fired at least 14 bullets at him, and is being treated in a hospital.


8:45 p.m.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has condemned the attack in Nice.

In a tweet Thursday, Netanyahu said Israel “unites in shock and condemnation of the atrocious attack” at the Notre-Dame Basilica.

“All civilized peoples must stand in full solidarity with France against the scourge of terrorism,” he said. “There can be no justification or equivocation.”


8:05 p.m.

Iran’s foreign minister has strongly condemned the deadly knife attack in southern France and called it a “terrorist attack.”

Javad Zarif said in a tweet Thursday: “We strongly condemn today’s terrorist attack in #Nice. This escalating vicious cycle -- hate speech, provocations & violence -- must be replaced by reason & sanity.”

Zarif also referred to French President Emanuel Macron’s staunch support of secular laws that protect caricatures depicting the Prophet Muhammad as an exercise in freedom of expression.

Zarif says: “We should recognize that radicalism only breeds more radicalism, and peace cannot be achieved with ugly provocations.”


7:50 p.m.

Jordan’s Foreign Ministry has condemned the attack in southern France.

Ministry spokesman Ambassador Dhaifallah Ali al-Fayez on Thursday denounced the “terrorist crime.” He criticized all crimes that “aim to destabilize security and stability and are inconsistent with religious and humanitarian values ​​and principles.”

Al-Fayez expressed his sincere condolences and sympathy for the families of the victims.


7:40 p.m.

All EU member states have expressed their solidarity with France following the knife attack that killed tree people in the southern city of Nice.

Leaders from the 27 countries gathered Thursday during a video conference focusing on COVID-19. In a joint statement, they condemned “in the strongest possible terms these attacks which represent attacks on our shared values.”

They added: “We call on Leaders around the world to work towards dialogue and understanding among communities and religions rather than division.”


7:20 p.m.

A man shot and killed by police in the French city of Avignon on Thursday claimed allegiance to an anti-immigrant group and had assaulted a merchant of North African descent, authorities said.

The incident came soon after a man shouting “God is great” in Arabic killed three people in a church in the southern city of Nice, prompting fears of copycat attacks.

The man in Avignon had a firearm, and was shot and killed by police after he refused to drop his weapon and a warning shot failed to stop him, according to a national police official.

The official said the man claimed to belong to extreme-right group Generation Identity and had assaulted a local merchant.

Avignon Prosecutor Philippe Guemas told broadcaster France Bleu that the assailant was a 33-year-old born in France “who had nothing to do with the Muslim religion” and appeared to be “psychologically unstable.”


5:55 p.m.

U.S. President Donald Trump has taken to Twitter to express his support for France after a knife-wielding man killed three people in an attack at a church in the southern French city of Nice.

Trump tweeted: “Our hearts are with the people of France. America stands with our oldest Ally in this fight. These Radical Islamic terrorist attacks must stop immediately. No country, France or otherwise can long put up with it!”


5:20 p.m.

Pakistan’s foreign minister has condemned the killing of three people in a knife attack inside a church in the southern France city of Nice.

Shah Mahmood Qureshi addressed reporters Thursday after leading a rally in Multan to celebrate the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad.

He said that Pakistan is “against any such incidents and we condemn violence wherever it happens.”

Qureshi congratulated about 1,000 rallygoers for peacefully expressing their love for the prophet.

Many attendees chanted slogans against France. Earlier Thursday, dozens of Pakistani students rallied in the capital, Islamabad, to denounce the French president’s support of secular laws that protect caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad as freedom of expression.


5:10 p.m.

Twitter removed a tweet from former Malaysian leader Mahathir Mohamad for glorifying violence but France’s digital minister demanded the company also ban him from its platform.

Cedric O said he told the managing director of Twitter in France that Mahathir’s account “must be immediately suspended,” O tweeted on Thursday. “If not, @twitter would be an accomplice to a formal call for murder.”

Mahathir, 95 and a former Malaysian prime minister, appeared to say the deaths of French people would be justified, in the wake of attacks that French authorities attributed to Muslim extremists.

“Muslims have a right to be angry and to kill millions of people for the massacres of the past,” he said Thursday, in a series of tweets that began with his thoughts on the beheading of a middle school teacher who showed caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad for a class on free speech.

Twitter at first put a label on the tweet saying it glorified violence but left it up because it “may be in the public’s interest.”

The tweet was later removed and replaced with a tag saying it broke the rules. The company said it took action for violating its policy on glorification of violence, which doesn’t allow threats against individuals or a group of people.

Mahathir was twice prime minister, and his second stint lasted from 2018 until he quit in February 2020. He has been viewed as an advocate of moderate Islamic views and a spokesman for the interests of developing countries. But at the same time, he pointedly criticized Western society and nations and their relationships to the Muslim world.


4:45 p.m.

Somalia’s presidency says it “deeply regrets any violation against the faith and sanctity of the Muslim people, including insults to Prophet Mohammed under the pretext of freedom of speech,” but it does not mention Thursday’s attack at a church in France.

The Horn of Africa nation has seen protests this week after French President Emmanuel Macron defended laws that protect cartoons of the prophet as freedom of speech.

Somalia’s presidency warns that “any act that hurts the feelings of Muslims will serve the interests of extremist groups” and should be avoided at any cost. It urges world leaders to clearly differentiate between freedom of speech and violation of religious beliefs.


4:40 p.m.

Nordic and Baltic leaders expressed dismay after the attack in the southern French city of Nice where three people were stabbed to death inside a church, with Denmark’s Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen saying she was “deeply saddened.”

“Denmark stands shoulder to shoulder with our French friends in this difficult time,” Frederiksen wrote on Twitter.

Her Norwegian counterpart, Erna Solberg, wrote that “we must protect human rights and not be threatened by terrorists.”

“We urge political and religious leaders in the Muslim world to distance themselves from extremism and protect freedom of expression,” Solberg said.

Estonian President Kersti Kaljulaid said on Twitter that “acts of terror can never be justified.”


4:10 p.m.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has extended his condolences to French President Emmanuel Macron and families of the victims of the attack in Nice. In a telegram quoted by the Kremlin, Putin called the attack “a cynical and a cruel crime inside a church” and said that “the notions of human morals are absolutely alien to terrorists.”

Also on Thursday, several dozen people gathered in front of the French embassy in Moscow, denouncing the publication of caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad in the satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo.

Asked by reporters whether a newspaper like Charlie Hebdo could exist in Russia, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said that it was impossible, pointing out that around 20 million Muslims live in Russia and the country has legislation that outlaws insulting religious beliefs. At the same time Peskov called the killings in Nice “an absolutely horrifying tragedy.”


3:55 p.m.

French President Emmanuel Macron says he will more than double the number of soldiers deployed in the country to protect against attacks, sending 7,000 to guard schools and religious sites in particular after a man armed with a knife killed three people at a church in Nice.

Macron’s announcement to increase deployments from around 3,000 currently to 7,000 came hours after the attack in the Mediterranean city left two women and a man dead at the Notre Dame basilica. The killings put France on its highest level of alert and come at a time of extreme tension over the republication of caricatures of the Prophet Mohammad by the satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo.


3:45 p.m.

Cyprus President Nicos Anastasiades says he was “horrified and saddened” by the deadly knife attack in Nice. Addressing his French counterpart and the people of France, Anastasiades posted on his official Twitter account that Cypriots “share your pain and stand in solidarity with you.”

He said Cyprus stands “united against hatred and terrorism.” “Our hearts are with the victims and their loved ones,” Anastasiades said


2:55 p.m.

Dozens of Pakistani students have rallied in the capital, Islamabad, to denounce the French president’s support of secular laws that protect caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad as freedom of expression.

The protesters on Thursday held banners and chanted slogans against President Emmanuel Macron, saying Muslims are ready to die to protect the honor of Islam’s prophet.

The rally came on the day an attacker armed with a knife killed three people inside a church in the French city of Nice.

Authorities deployed police to prevent demonstrators from marching toward the French Embassy and the protesters eventually dispersed peacefully.


2:45 p.m.

Saudi Arabia, the scene of an attack on a guard at the French Consulate in Jiddah on Thursday, has condemned the knife attack at the Notre Dame Basilica in Nice that left three people dead. Its Foreign Affairs ministry tweeted that it condemned the attack and also offered condolences for victims of the attack.


2:40 p.m.

Lebanese Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri posted on Twitter “the strongest condemnation” of the attack in Notre Dame Church in Nice, calling it a heinous crime. “Terrorism has no religion, and all Muslims are called on to reject this criminal act that is not related to Islam or to the prophet of love,” he wrote.


2:35 p.m.

The European Union’s top officials have strongly condemned the knife attack in Nice and expressed their support to France, a founding member of the 27-nation bloc.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, the head of the EU’s executive arm, said the whole of Europe stands behind France, “determined in the face of barbarism and fanaticism.”

EU Council president Charles Michel, who chairs the meetings of the EU’s 27 leaders, expressed his “solidarity with France and the French” in a message posted on Twitter.

“My thoughts are with the victims of the heinous attack on Nice and their loved ones. All of Europe is with you,” Michel wrote.

EU leaders were expected to meet later Thursday during a video conference. The Elysee press service said French President Emmanuel Macron was still planning to attend the meeting despite a planned trip to Nice in the afternoon.


2:30 p.m.

The energy-rich country of Qatar has offered its “strong condemnation and denunciation” of the attack in France.

The country’s Foreign Affairs Ministry said in a statement that it wanted to reiterate “Qatar’s firm position on rejecting violence and terrorism, regardless of the motives and reason.”

Many Muslims are marking Thursday as the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad.

A top Emirati diplomat, Anwar Gargash, has tweeted noting the Prophet’s birthday and saying that “we affirm that the speech of violence and extremism does not represent us.”


2:10 p.m.

Turkey has condemned the attack in Notre Dame Basilica in Nice amid heightened diplomatic tensions between the two countries.

“We stand in solidarity with the people of France against terror and violence,” a Turkish foreign ministry statement said, while strongly condemning the attack.

Turkey’s presidential spokesman Ibrahim Kalin tweeted in Turkish and French, expressing his condolences. “We will fight all kinds of terror and extremism with determination and in solidarity,” he said.

Relations between Turkey and France have been tense in recent months over Syria, Libya and the Eastern Mediterranean. They hit a new low after Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Saturday accused his French counterpart Emmanuel Macron of Islamophobia and questioned his mental health, prompting Paris to recall its ambassador to Turkey for consultations.

Erdogan's criticism came after French President Emmanuel Macron’s firm stance against Islamism following the beheading of a teacher who showed caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad for a class lesson on free speech.

1:55 p.m.

Danish Foreign Minister Jeppe Kofod has condemned the deadly attack at the Notre Dame Basilica in Nice and said on Twitter that “Denmark stands shoulder to shoulder with our French friends and allies.”

The Foreign Ministry quickly warned on Twitter that Danes in Nice should “avoid the area around the church” and follow local authorities’ news updates.

Across the Baltic Sea, Lithuanian Foreign Minister Linas Linkevicius wrote on Twitter in French that “terrorism will never win over European values and our unity.”


1:50 p.m.

Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte has expressed solidarity with France in a tweet sent in French and Dutch following the Nice church attack.

“For the second time in a short time, France is startled by a gruesome act of terrorism, this time in Nice. Our thoughts go out to the next of kin. And we say to the French people: you are not alone in the fight against extremism. The Netherlands is next to you,” Rutte tweeted.


1:47 p.m.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson says he is “appalled” by the “barbaric attack” at the Notre Dame Basilica in Nice.

“Our thoughts are with the victims and their families, and the U.K. stands steadfastly with France against terror and intolerance,” Johnson said in a tweet sent in both French and English.

Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said the U.K. “stands with France today in sorrow, shock and solidarity.”

“Our thoughts are with the victims and their families and we offer every support to the French people in pursuing those responsible for this appalling attack,” he said in a statement.

1:45 p.m.

Officials across the political spectrum in Germany have condemned the attack in the southern French city of Nice, with some calling for a solidarity rally outside the French embassy.

Chancellor Angela Merkel said she was “deeply shaken by the terrible murders in a church in Nice,” adding that her thoughts were with the relatives and those injured.

She added: “The French nation has Germany’s solidarity in these difficult hours."

An attacker armed with a knife killed three people in the southern French coastal city Thursday.

German Justice Minister Christine Lambrecht said in a statement that she was “shocked at the news of another terrible crime in France” and expressed her sympathy to the victims.

She added that if the attack is confirmed to be an Islamist terror attack, then it would be "an attack on our way of life and our core values.”

Free Democratic Party lawmaker Konstantin Kuhle called for people to gather for a minute’s silence later Thursday to commemorate recent victims of attacks in Paris, Dresden and Nice.


1:30 p.m.

Pope Francis is praying for the victims of the knife attack at a Roman Catholic basilica in the southern French city of Nice and for an end to all “terrorist” violence.

Vatican spokesman Matteo Bruni says Francis was informed about Thursday’s attack at the Notre Dame Basilica and expressed his solidarity with the Catholic community in France.

In a statement, Bruni said the attack “sowed death in a place of love and consolation.”

He said Francis was praying for an end to such violence and “for people to look at each other again as brothers and sisters and not as enemies.”

An attacker armed with a knife killed three people. It was the third such attack in recent weeks following furor over caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad that were republished by the satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo.


11:20 a.m.

An attacker armed with a knife has killed three people at a church in the southern French city of Nice.

It was the third attack in two months in France amid a growing furor over caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad that were republished by the satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo.

Other confrontations and attacks were reported Thursday in the southern city of Avignon and in the Saudi city of Jiddah, but it was not immediately clear if they were linked to the attack in Nice.

Thursday’s assailant in Nice was wounded by police and hospitalized after the killings at the Notre Dame Basilica, less than a kilometer (half-mile) from the site in 2016 where another attacker plowed a truck into a Bastille Day crowd, killing dozens of people.