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.
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.”
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.”
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
The knife attack in Nice is the second major incident in France in just 13 days, coming with the country still reeling from the slaying of a teacher, Samuel Paty, who was beheaded after using caricatures of Islam’s Prophet Muhammad during a lesson.
Abdoullakh Abouyezidovitch, an 18-year-old Chechen refugee, took credit for the beheading of Paty, 47, who taught history and geography at a school in Paris. Police killed the teen in Éragny, the same Paris suburb where Paty’s body was found.
Paty had taught a class on freedom of expression, during which he used caricatures of the prophet taken from Charlie Hebdo, sparking controversy in the weeks preceding his death, authorities said.
His murder caused France’s long-simmering tensions over secularism, Islamism and religious equality to again erupt into public view — five years after a massacre at the offices of satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, which had previously published controversial cartoons depicting the Prophet Mohammed.
President Macron paid tribute to the teacher, whom he said was “killed because he was teaching students freedom of speech, the freedom to believe and not believe.” Thousands gathered to celebrate free speech and decry violence in a number of demonstrations across the country.
But an international flare-up over the treatment of Muslims in France broke out after the attack.
Turkey has been particularly critical of Macron’s handling of tensions in the country, saying on Wednesday that “we are going through a time in which anti-Islam and Muslim hatred is spreading like cancer among leaders in Europe.”
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan also said in the past week that Macron needs “mental treatment” over his attitude towards Muslims in France, prompting the French government to withdraw its ambassador from Ankara.
The Turkish Foreign Ministry condemned Thursday’s attack in Nice, saying: “There is no reason that can justify killing a person or justify violence. It is clear that those who organized such a brutal attack in a holy place of worship do not have any religious, humanitarian and moral values.”