KEY POINTS

  • Attacker gave his name as "Brahim" and was aged 25: reports
  • He continued to repeat "Allahu Akbar" even after being shot by police
  • France raises national security level to "urgent"

France raised its security alert status to the highest level Thursday after a knife-wielding attacker shouting "Allahu Akbar" killed three people in the Notre Dame Basilica in Nice. It was the third jihadist attack in the country in the last two months including the brutal beheading of Samule Paty, a teacher, in the northern Paris suburb of Éragny.

France raised the national security level to "urgent" and will double the number of soldiers deployed across the countryto protect schools and religious sites to 7,000, the Associate Press reported. Prime Minister Jean Castex told the French National Assembly that the government's response to the attack would be firm.

The attacker, who was shot and wounded by the police, kept repeating "Allahu Akbar" (God is Greater) even while under medication while being brought to the hospital, Nice Mayor Christian Estrosi told reporters.

The attacker gave his name as "Brahim" and was aged 25, reports quoted police sources as saying. But his identity has not been confirmed.

The knife attack comes amid growing anger in the Muslim world over the republication of the caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad by the satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo. Paty was killed after he allegedly displayed the controversial cartoons to his students during a lesson.

The knife attack took place inside the Basilica of Notre-Dame in the southeastern French city of Nice The knife attack took place inside the Basilica of Notre-Dame in the southeastern French city of Nice Photo: AFP / ERIC GAILLARD

The attacks have reignited the simmering conflict over France's secularism. “With the attack against Samual Paty, it was freedom of speech that was targeted. With this attack in Nice, it is freedom of religion,” Prime Minister Jean Castex told lawmakers Thursday.

The victims of Thursday's attack included a woman whose throat had been cut and another man, whose bodies were found inside the church. A third person ran out of the church after being stabbed but died outside. The attack took place around 9 a.m. local time. Police said the attacker appeared to be acting alone and they were not searching for any other assailants.

Muslims in several countries have called to boycott French goods for France’s stance on the publicaiton of the caricatures. Several countries marked the birthday of the Prophet on Thursday.