French President Emmanuel Macron has declared the country ‘under attack’ following today’s mass stabbing in Nice.
He declared the incident in which three people died at the Notre Dame Cathedral as an ‘Islamist terrorist attack’ on the nation.
Officials earlier confirmed two people were beheaded in the horror at the church.
The leader halted parliament’s planned coronavirus lockdown debate to head to the southern city following the incident.
Mr Macron said security would be stepped up on French territory,
Soldiers would be posted at places of worship including churches to ‘protect’ them following the violence in Nice, and security would also be stepped up at schools too, he added.
The suspected attacker was shot by police and taken to hospital, the city’s mayor said this morning.
The suspect in the attack was heard to repeatedly shout ‘Allahu Akbar’ as police restrained him, mayor Christian Estrosi claimed earlier today.
Dramatic footage captured the sounds of gun-fire and people screaming as officers stormed the church, following the stabbings at around 9am.
Mr Macron expressed solidarity with France’s Roman Catholic community as he addressed the morning’s tragedy, as he sent a “message of unity” to the country.
As he visited the site of the attack, he told the nation France had been targeted because of its values.
Mr Macron said: “If we are attacked, it is because of our values, our values of freedom, and our desire not to yield to terror.”
He made reference to an incident at the French consulate in Saudi Arabia this morning, which occurred just hours after the Nice stabbings.
A guard was stabbed at the consulate in Jeddah with a “sharp tool”.
The guard was taken to hospital with non-life threatening injuries and the attacker was arrested.
The incidents came as France was already reeling from another attack just weeks ago.
Teacher Samuel Paty was beheaded earlier this month near his school in Paris after using cartoons of the Prophet Mohammad in a civics class.
Thursday’s attacks, on the birthday of the Prophet Mohammad, came at a time of growing Muslim anger at France’s defence of the right to publish the cartoons, and protesters have denounced France in street rallies in several Muslim-majority countries.
After the Nice attack this morning, Prime Minister Jean Castex raised France’s security alert to its highest level.
The attack comes at a tense hour for France, as Mr Macron had only yesterday announced a second national lockdown.
The coronavirus restrictions closing business would take effect on Friday and could last into early December, he warned.