France is reeling, yet again, from a spate of what are believed to be Islamist terror attacks. Following the gruesome beheading of school teacher Samuel Paty in a Paris suburb on October 16th, French people had been on high alert. Mr Paty, it is believed, was targeted after he had shown his class some cartoons depicting the Prophet Mohammed, as part of a class discussion on freedom of speech. The cartoons, published in Charlie Hebdo magazine, were controversial, as Islam forbids the depiction of the Prophet. Charlie Hebdo’s offices were attacked by Islamic extremists in 2015. 12 people were murdered and 11 injured in a shooting massacre.
The school teacher’s murder occurred at a time of rising tensions in France. 14 people have been on trial since early September for allegedly assisting the perpetrators of the Charlie Hebdo attacks. The French authorities’ insistence on the “right to blasphemy” has also irked some religious adherents.
Mr Paty’s horrific murder sparked fears of copycat events. In Nice, on Thursday, these fears were realised when 3 people were murdered in a vicious knife attack in the city’s Basilica of Notre Dame. A woman, aged 70 was almost fully decapitated near the church’s holy water font, the church’s sacristan, a married father of two, died as a result of having his throat slashed and a woman in her 40s escaped the church but died shortly afterwards, in a nearby cafe, from her stab wounds.
Meanwhile, a guard at the French consulate in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia survived wounds inflicted by a Saudi man who approached the building wielding a knife. A man who tried to attack police with a knife in Avignon was shot dead. He ran at police shouting “Allahu Akbar”. The policemen were not harmed in the incident.
And finally, an Afghan man was arrested near a Lyon train station. The man, dressed in traditional djellaba robes was behaving erratically and waving a large knife.
France’s President Macron visited Nice in the aftermath of the the massacre. “Yet again…it is very clearly France that is attacked,” Mr Macron said. He pledged France’s support for its Catholic citizens. “We will in no way give in”, he said, while announcing an increase in the number of soldiers involved in an operation to protect schools and places of worship from 3,000 to 7,000.