Knife attack in French city of Nice

By Rob Picheta and Nick Thompson, CNN

Updated 7:01 p.m. ET, October 29, 2020
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3:06 p.m. ET, October 29, 2020

What we know so far about the attack

A Police vehicle is parked by the Notre-Dame de l'Assomption Basilica in Nice on Thursday, October 29.
A Police vehicle is parked by the Notre-Dame de l'Assomption Basilica in Nice on Thursday, October 29. Valery Hache/AFP/Getty Images

More details are emerging about the Nice attack. Here's what we know right now:

The incident

At least three people were killed in Nice, southern France, during a knife attack at the Notre Dame Basilica, the city's main church.

Videos posted on social media showed police and military officers responding to the incident, setting up a cordon in the city center.

The victims

One of the victims had her throat slit, a police source told CNN. The mayor of Nice had earlier described it as a decapitation. Another victim – a man – died following multiple stabbings, according to the police source. The third victim, a woman, was wounded inside the church, but managed to leave. However, she died in a nearby café, the police source said.

The suspect

French national police named the attack's suspect as Brahim Aouissaoui, born in 1999. A source in the Italian interior ministry told CNN that Aouissaoui first arrived in Europe on the southern Italian island of Lampedusa.

Nice's mayor Christian Estrosi said the attacker was shot by police, but is still alive and has been taken into custody.

Estrosi said "everything points" to the incident being a terrorist attack, and France's anti-terrorism prosecutor has taken over the investigation.

The reaction

French President Emmanuel Macron said the country will not give in to terrorism after once again coming under attack from what he called “Islamist and terrorist madness," he said after visiting the scene of a deadly attack. The country's terror alert level was raised to "emergency" following the incident.

International leaders have pledged solidarity with France, with the heads of Spain, Italy, Turkey, the UK and the European Parliament among those condemning the violence. The Vatican said Pope Francis is praying for victims. “Terrorism and violence can never be accepted,” it said in a statement.

The French Council of the Muslim Faith has also condemned the incident; as did the French Bishop’s Council, which said Catholics across France “refuse to give into fear” following the attack.

Authorities in Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Egypt’s highest religious authority Al-Azhar have condemned the deadly knife attack in France on Thursday. 

The Turkish government's communications director, Fahrettin Altun, also condemned the attack but criticized the French leadership saying they should avoid inflammatory rhetoric against Muslims. Tensions have been tense between the two countries, with Turkey particularly critical of treatment of Muslims in France.

The background

The incident is the latest in a number of attacks to hit France in recent years, and comes less than two weeks after the beheading of teacher Samuel Paty in Paris. Paty was targeted after he used caricatures of Islam's Prophet Muhammad during a lesson.

Nice has been the target of terror in the past. In 2016 dozens died after an ISIS-inspired attacker plowed a 20-ton truck into Bastille Day crowds.

1:22 p.m. ET, October 29, 2020

JUST IN: Nice attack suspect identified by French police

From CNN's Fanny Bobille in Paris and Livia Borghese in Rome

French national police have identified the suspect in Nice attack as Brahim Aouissaoui, who was born in 1999.

A source in the Italian interior ministry told CNN that Aouissaoui first arrived in Europe on the southern Italian island of Lampedusa.

12:15 p.m. ET, October 29, 2020

Turkish official condemns Nice attack

From CNN’s Isil Sariyuce in Istanbul

Turkey's Communications Director Fahrettin Altun is pictured during a meeting in Istanbul, Turkey on September 7.
Turkey's Communications Director Fahrettin Altun is pictured during a meeting in Istanbul, Turkey on September 7. Handout/Turkey's Directorate Of Communications/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

The Turkish government's communications director, Fahrettin Altun, said that Turkey will continue to confront politicians who insult Islam, saying that the country “does not owe an apology to anyone for expressing strong opposition to racism and xenophobia.”

Altun “unconditionally” condemned the most recent terror attack in Nice, France and said that “such senseless violence has nothing to do with Islam or Muslims.”

However, Altun criticized the French leadership saying they should avoid inflammatory rhetoric against Muslims.

“We call on the French leadership to avoid further inflammatory rhetoric against Muslims and focus, instead, on finding the perpetrators of this and other acts of violence. Sensible parties in France must work on building bridges to prevent the creation of a hostile environment,” Altun said. 

“We categorically deny any effort to associate us with any kind of violence.”

Some background: Tensions have been tense between the two countries, with Turkey particularly critical of treatment of Muslims in France. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Wednesday that "we are going through a time in which anti-Islam and Muslim hatred is spreading like cancer among leaders in Europe."

11:29 a.m. ET, October 29, 2020

"We will not give in," Macron says after visiting scene of attack

From CNN's Fanny Bobille in Paris

French President Emmanuel Macron speaks to the press outside the the Notre-Dame Basilica in Nice on Thursday.
French President Emmanuel Macron speaks to the press outside the the Notre-Dame Basilica in Nice on Thursday. Eric Gaillard/Pool/AFP/Getty Images

French President Emmanuel Macron said the country will not give in to terrorism after once again coming under attack from what he called “Islamist and terrorist madness."

“I say this with the outmost clarity — we will not give in to terrorism,” he said after visiting the scene of a deadly attack in Nice.

“Once again this morning, it was three of our compatriots that fell in Nice, and very clearly France is under attack," he added.

Macron said the country must use such incidents to unite, and not give into the “spirit of division."

10:46 a.m. ET, October 29, 2020

Catholics "won’t give into fear" after Nice attack, Bishop's Council says

From CNN's Gaëlle Fournier in Paris

French policemen stand guard at the site of a knife attack at the Basilica of Notre-Dame de Nice on Thursday.
French policemen stand guard at the site of a knife attack at the Basilica of Notre-Dame de Nice on Thursday. Eroc Gaillard/AFP/Getty Images

Catholics across France “refuse to give into fear” following the knife attack at a church in Nice, the French Bishop’s Council has said.

“Through these awful acts, it is our entire country that is hit,” the Council said in a statement.

“This terrorism aims to set anxiety within our society. There is an urgent need to stop this gangrene and to regain the essential fraternity that will make us stand in front of these threats.”

The council said church bells rang out across the country at 3 p.m. local time (10 a.m. ET) in tribute to the victims.

10:03 a.m. ET, October 29, 2020

Middle East countries condemn deadly attack in France

From CNN’s Mostafa Salem in Abu Dhabi

Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Egypt have condemned the deadly knife attack in France on Thursday. 

Egypt’s highest religious authority Al-Azhar condemned “the hateful terrorist attack that took place” in France on Thursday and warned of an “escalating rhetoric of violence and hatred."

“Under no circumstances are these attacks justifiable," Al-Azhar said in a series of tweets.

Saudi Arabia “categorically rejected extremist acts” while “stressing the importance of avoiding all practices which generate hatred, violence and extremism," state news agency SPA said. 

The Emirati Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Anwar Gargash commemorated Islam’s Prophet’s birthday, marked on Thursday, saying: “On this cherished memory, we affirm that the discourse of violence and extremism does not represent us."

9:47 a.m. ET, October 29, 2020

France reels from another suspected terror attack, after years of violence on its streets

Thursday's knife attack in Nice has been described as a "terrorist" incident by the city's mayor, and France's anti-terrorism prosecutor has taken on the investigation.

The incident marks mark the latest in France's dark recent history of attacks.

In January 2015, a total of 17 people were killed in attacks on the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, and ensuing shootouts at a kosher grocery story and the Paris suburb of Montrouge.

Armed gunmen face police officers near the offices of the French satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo during the attack in Paris, on January 7, 2015.
Armed gunmen face police officers near the offices of the French satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo during the attack in Paris, on January 7, 2015. Anne Gelbard/AFP/Getty Images

Twelve of those who died were shot when brothers Said and Chérif Kouachi forced their way into the Charlie Hebdo building and opened fire during its editorial meeting. The victims included the magazine's editor, Stephane "Charb" Charbonnier, several cartoonists and columnists, and a protection officer assigned to protect Charb, who had been the target of threats over the magazine's publication, in 2006, of cartoons depicting the Prophet Mohammed.

Depictions of Islam's prophet are considered blasphemous by many Muslims. The illustrations -- originally published by a Danish newspaper in 2005 -- prompted the brothers to attack the Charlie Hebdo offices.

Paris saw more shocking violence in November 2015, when attackers armed with assault rifles and explosives targeted six locations across the city in the deadliest attack in France since World War II.

ISIS claimed responsibility for the violence, which killed a total of 130 people and wounded a further 494. Seven locations were targeted, including the Bataclan theater and the Stade de France football stadium.

In subsequent years, a number of attacks using vehicles have taken place across the country. A July 2016 truck ramming attack in Nice, the same city struck by violence on Thursday, killed 86 people as they celebrated Bastille Day.

In December 2018, five people were killed in a shooting at a Christmas market in Strasbourg. The shooter, Cherif Chekatt, was known to prison officials for being radicalized and for his proselytizing behavior in detention in 2015. A further four people were stabbed in October 2019 at a police headquarters in Paris.

And earlier this month, a teacher, Samuel Paty, was beheaded in Paris. The country is still mourning the slaying of Paty, who was targeted after he used caricatures of Islam's Prophet Muhammad during a lesson.

9:41 a.m. ET, October 29, 2020

Macron arrives at scene of Nice attack

French President Emmanuel Macron visits the scene of the knife attack in Nice.
French President Emmanuel Macron visits the scene of the knife attack in Nice. Eric Gaillard/Pool/AFP/Getty Images

French President Emmanuel Macron has arrived at Notre Dame de Nice, the church where three people were killed in a knife attack Thursday morning.

Macron has been accompanied by the Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin, Justice Minister Eric Dupond-Moretti, anti-terror prosecutor Jean-François Ricard and Mgr Éric de Moulins-Beaufort, President of the French Bishops' Council (CEF), the president's office said.

Macron’s office also said he would meet security personnel and rescue teams at the scene, as well as Nice mayor Christian Estrosi and parliament representatives Cédric Roussel and Eric Ciotti.

9:10 a.m. ET, October 29, 2020

Pope praying for victims of Nice attack, Vatican says

Pope Francis is pictured during the general audience at Vatican City, on October 28.
Pope Francis is pictured during the general audience at Vatican City, on October 28. Vatican Media Handout/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

Pope Francis is praying for victims of the deadly knife attack in Nice, the Vatican said in a statement on Thursday.

“Terrorism and violence can never be accepted,” the statement read. “Today’s attack has sown death in a place of love and consolation.”

The Vatican said the Pope has been informed of the situation and "is close to the grieving Catholic community."

The Pope prays “that the beloved French people can react to evil with good,” the statement said.