France on alert amid mass protests
France’s interior minister on Friday warned of more militant attacks, saying the country was engaged in a war against Islamist ideology, following the second deadly knife attack in its cities in two weeks, even as the country has warned its citizens they face a security risk “everywhere” in the world .
Gerald Damarnin was speaking a day after a Tunisian man, holding a Quran and shouting “Allahu Akbar” (God is Greatest) beheaded a woman and killed two other people in a church in Nice. The man was shot by police and is now in critical condition in a hospital.
“We are in a war against an enemy that is both inside and outside,” Damarnin said, even as mourners placed flowers, messages and candles near the Notre Dame Basilica, the site of Thursday’s attack.
“We need to understand that there have been and there will be other events such as these terrible attacks,” he said.
President Emmanuel Macron has deployed thousands of soldiers to protect important sites such as places of worship and schools, and France’s security alert is at its highest level.
Foreign minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said on Friday that France’s highest attack risk warning had been sent to citizens abroad on Thursday evening “wherever they are, because the risk is everywhere”.
The victims included 55-year-old Vincent Loques, a father of two who was the church’s sacristan, in charge of its holy objects, according to local broadcaster France-Bleu. Another was a 44-year-old mother of three from Brazil named Simone .
France’s anti-terrorism prosecutor said the suspect, Ibrahim Issaoui, is a Tunisian born in 1999 who reached the Italian island of Lampedusa, a key landing point for migrants crossing in boats from North Africa, on September 20 and travelled to Bari, a port city in southern Italy, on October 9.
It is not clear when he arrived in Nice. Tunisians fleeing their pandemic-battered economy make up the largest contingent of migrants landing in Italy this year. A second suspect, a 47-year-old man, was taken into custody on Friday. He is believed to have been in contact with the attacker the night before.