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France says killer of 3 a Tunisian

Knifings in Nice third attack in two months attributed to extremists by LORI HINNANT AND DANIEL COLE THE ASSOCIATED PRESS | October 30, 2020 at 4:04 a.m.
Police officers work at the scene of a knife attack Thursday at Notre Dame church in Nice, southern France. More photos at arkansasonline.com/1030france/. (AP/Daniel Cole)

NICE, France -- France's anti-terrorism prosecutor said the knife-wielding man who killed three in a Nice church Thursday was a Tunisian who entered France from Italy.

Jean-Francois Ricard detailed the gruesome scene encountered inside the Nice basilica where a man and woman were killed by the attacker. 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 on his throat, the prosecutor added.

Ricard said at a news 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 attack in the Mediterranean city of Nice was the third in two months in France that authorities have attributed to Muslim extremists, including the beheading of a teacher.

[Video not showing up above? Click here to watch » https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8CdJbwBz3xo]

It comes during a growing furor over caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad that were republished in recent months by the satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo -- renewing debate in France and the Muslim world over the depictions that Muslims consider offensive but are protected by French free speech laws.

France's anti-terrorism prosecutor opened an investigation, and President Emmanuel Macron said he would immediately increase the number of soldiers deployed to protect schools and religious sites from around 3,000 currently to 7,000.

France's national police chief had already ordered increased security at churches and mosques earlier this week, but no police appeared to be guarding the Nice church when it was attacked, and Associated Press reporters saw no visible security forces at multiple prominent religious sites in Paris on Thursday. French churches have been attacked by extremists in recent years, and Thursday's killings come ahead of the Roman Catholic All Saints' holiday.

The assailant was wounded by police and hospitalized after the killings at the Notre Dame Basilica. Thursday's attacker was believed to be acting alone, and police are not searching for other assailants, said two police officials who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to be publicly named.

"He cried 'Allah Akbar!' over and over, even after he was injured," said Nice Mayor Christian Estrosi.

[Gallery not loading above? Click here for more photos » arkansasonline.com/1030france/]

Shots punctuated the air and witnesses screamed as police stationed at the grandiose doors to the church appeared to fire at the attacker inside, according to videos obtained by The Associated Press. For a time after the attack, explosions could be heard as sappers detonated suspicious objects.

It was the third attack since Charlie Hebdo republished the caricatures in September as the trial opened for the 2015 attacks at the paper's offices and a kosher supermarket. The gunmen in that attack claimed allegiance to the Islamic State group and al-Qaida, which both recently called anew for strikes against France.

"Very clearly, it is France which is under attack," Macron said as he stood before the church. He added that all of France offered its support to Catholics "so that their religion can be exercised freely in our country. So that every religion can be practiced."

In the French city of Avignon on Thursday morning, a man with a firearm was shot and killed by police after he refused to drop his weapon and a warning shot failed to stop him, a police official said. And a Saudi state-run news agency said a man stabbed a guard at the French consulate in Jiddah, wounding the guard before he was arrested.

The Saudi Press Agency report, citing police spokesman Maj. Mohammed al-Ghamdi, said the special force for diplomatic security was able to arrest the Saudi man after he stabbed the guard "using a sharp tool." The attacker is said to be in his 40s. The guard was taken to a hospital for treatment, the agency said.

Information for this article was contributed by Jon Gambrell, Angela Charlton, Thomas Adamson and Zeynep Bilginsoy of The Associated Press.

French President Emmanuel Macron, center, arrives at Notre Dame church in Nice, southern France, 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. It was the third attack in two months in France amid a growing furor in the Muslim world over caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad that were re-published by the satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo. (Eric Gaillard/Pool via AP)
French President Emmanuel Macron, center, arrives at Notre Dame church in Nice, southern France, 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. It was the third attack in two months in France amid a growing furor in the Muslim world over caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad that were re-published by the satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo. (Eric Gaillard/Pool via AP)
Forensic police officers inspect the scene of a knife attack at Notre Dame church in Nice, southern France, 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. It was the third attack in two months in France amid a growing furor in the Muslim world over caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad that were re-published by the satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo. (Eric Gaillard/Pool via AP)
Forensic police officers inspect the scene of a knife attack at Notre Dame church in Nice, southern France, 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. It was the third attack in two months in France amid a growing furor in the Muslim world over caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad that were re-published by the satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo. (Eric Gaillard/Pool via AP)
French President Emmanuel Macron meets rescue workers after a knife attack at Notre Dame church in Nice, southern France, 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. It was the third attack in two months in France amid a growing furor in the Muslim world over caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad that were re-published by the satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo. (Eric Gaillard/Pool via AP)
French President Emmanuel Macron meets rescue workers after a knife attack at Notre Dame church in Nice, southern France, 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. It was the third attack in two months in France amid a growing furor in the Muslim world over caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad that were re-published by the satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo. (Eric Gaillard/Pool via AP)
French President Emmanuel Macron, second left, and Nice mayor Christian Estrosi , third left, meet police officers after a knife attack at Notre Dame church in Nice, southern France, 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. It was the third attack in two months in France amid a growing furor in the Muslim world over caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad that were re-published by the satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo. (Eric Gaillard/Pool via AP)
French President Emmanuel Macron, second left, and Nice mayor Christian Estrosi , third left, meet police officers after a knife attack at Notre Dame church in Nice, southern France, 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. It was the third attack in two months in France amid a growing furor in the Muslim world over caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad that were re-published by the satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo. (Eric Gaillard/Pool via AP)
Police officers stand guard near Notre Dame church in Nice, southern France, 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. It was the third attack in two months in France amid a growing furor in the Muslim world over caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad that were re-published by the satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo. (Eric Gaillard/Pool via AP)
Police officers stand guard near Notre Dame church in Nice, southern France, 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. It was the third attack in two months in France amid a growing furor in the Muslim world over caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad that were re-published by the satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo. (Eric Gaillard/Pool via AP)
Police work behind a restricted zone near 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)
Police work behind a restricted zone near 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)
French policemen and forensic officers work on the scene of the knife attack in front of Notre Dame church, in Nice, France, Thursday, Oct. 29, 2020. An attacker armed with a knife killed three people at a church in the Mediterranean city of Nice, the third attack in two months in France. (AP Photo/Daniel Cole)
French policemen and forensic officers work on the scene of the knife attack in front of Notre Dame church, in Nice, France, Thursday, Oct. 29, 2020. An attacker armed with a knife killed three people at a church in the Mediterranean city of Nice, the third attack in two months in France. (AP Photo/Daniel Cole)
The sun sets behind 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)
The sun sets behind 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)
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)
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)
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