A knife-wielding attacker beheaded a woman and killed two other people in a suspected terrorist act at a church in the French city of Nice on Thursday.
Within hours of the Nice attack, police killed a man who had threatened passersby with a handgun in Montfavet, near the southern French city of Avignon.
Nice’s mayor, Christian Estrosi, said there had been a “terrorist attack at the heart of the Notre-Dame basilica”. He spoke of “Islamo-fascism” and said the suspect had “repeated endlessly ‘Allahu Akbar’ (God is greatest)”.
Estrosi said the attack was similar to the beheading earlier this month near Paris of teacher Samuel Paty, who had used 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.
In Saudi Arabia, meanwhile, state television reported that a Saudi man had been arrested in the Red Sea city of Jeddah after attacking and injuring a guard at the French consulate there. The French Embassy said he was in hospital after a knife attack and his life was not in danger.
After the Nice attack, Prime Minister Jean Castex raised France’s security alert to its highest level and said the government’s response would be firm and implacable.
President Emmanuel Macron has arrived in Nice and is meeting police officers at the scene of the attack. Anti-terror prosecutors have also opened a murder inquiry.